- The Washington Times - Friday, February 27, 2009

One of R. Allen Stanford‘s top executives was charged Thursday with lying to investigators probing an alleged $8 billion fraud perpetrated by the flamboyant financier.

Laura Pendergest-Holt, the chief investment officer of the Houston-based Stanford Financial Group, was arrested by FBI Agents Thursday on charges of obstructing an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). She was held overnight and expected to appear Friday in federal court in Houston.

She is the first person charged criminally as part of the alleged scam.

Mr. Stanford, a cricket enthusiast who ran his financial empire from Houston and Antigua, has not been charged with a crime.

But court documents released as part of Ms. Pendergest-Holt’s case reveal he has been under FBI, IRS and Postal Service investigation since June 2008. Those documents also reveal three of Mr. Stanford’s employees are already cooperating with investigators.

Mr. Stanford, Ms. Pendergest-Holt and Stanford International Bank chief financial officer James Davis were accused in a civil lawsuit filed by the SEC earlier this month of fraudulently selling “certificates of deposit” promising impossibly high returns. Three of Mr. Stanford’s companies were also named in the suit.

A judge subsequently froze Mr. Stanford’s assets.

Mr. Stanford’s whereabouts were unknown in the days after the suit’s filing, leading to speculation he had fled the country. But FBI Agents located him in Virginia last week, served him with court papers and made arrangements for him to turn over his passport. Authorities said Mr. Stanford had not been purposely trying to elude authorities.

About a week before filing the civil lawsuit, the SEC interviewed Ms. Pendergest-Holt. She is accused lying several times during the Feb. 10 interview.

According to authorities, Ms. Pendergest-Holt met with fellow employees to prepare for her meeting with the SEC; court records reflect the three cooperating witnesses were there. She later told investigators she had only spoken with her lawyer before the interview.

Ms. Pendergest-Holt is also accused of lying when she said wise was not a member of Stanford International Bank’s investment committee.

Authorities also said Ms. Pendergest-Holt did not disclose that a $1.6 billion loan had been issued by the bank to a shareholder. According to court records, those at the meeting to prepare Ms. Pendergest-Holt understood the shareholder to be a person identified only in court documents as Stanford Financial Group “Executive A.” It is unclear from court records whether “Executive A” is Mr. Stanford.

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