The former chief investment officer of Allen Stanford's financial empire was sentenced to serve three years in prison after she pled guilty to obstructing an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC") into Stanford's operations. Laura Pendergest-Holt, 39, had agreed to plead guilty only days after Allen Stanford was sentenced to 110 years in prison after being convicted of operating a $7 billion Ponzi scheme rivaled only by Bernard Madoff. The sentence is consistent with her plea agreement, in which prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence of thirty-six months in prison followed by a term of supervised release. It was unclear from immediate news reports whether United States District Judge David Hittner ordered Pendergest-Holt to pay restitution.
The charges derived from the SEC's initial investigation into Stanford's operations, which resulted in the issuance of subpoenas to Stanford and another employee to provide testimony on the operations of Stanford International Bank, Ltd. ("SIB"). After the subpoenas were issued, a Stanford attorney convinced the SEC to allow the substitution of Pendergest-Holt to give testimony, intimating that she was more familiar with operations than Stanford. Pendergest-Holt then participated in several weeks of meetings with Stanford executives where she was coached on the testimony she was expected to give. Her testimony omitted crucial details of SIB's finances and omitted or misrepresented other relevant information. According to prosecutors,
"Holt acknowledged that her eventual appearance and sworn testimony before the SEC was a stall tactic designed to frustrate the SEC's efforts to obtain important information about SIB's investment portfolio. Holt admitted she took this action intentionally and corruptly, knowing that her testimony would impede the SEC's investigation and help SIB continue operating."
Holt is the third-highest ranking official to receive prison time after Stanford and Stanford's CFO, James Davis. Incidentally, Pendergest-Holt carried on an affair with Davis, who served as the prosecution's chief witness against Stanford. Two other Stanford officials are scheduled to stand trial beginning later this month.
A copy of the indictment is here.