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Former Stanford CIO pleads guilty to obstruction of justice

Published:Wednesday | June 27, 2012 | 12:00 AM

The United States Department of Justice has confirmed that Laura Pendergest-Holt, the former chief investment officer for jailed Texas financier Allen Stanford, has pleaded guilty to obstructing a US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation into the Antigua-based Stanford International Bank (SIB).

The department said Pendergest-Holt, 38, entered her guilty plea before US District Judge David Hittner in Houston, Texas.

A plea agreement was also filed with the court, the statement said.

If the agreement is accepted by the court at Pendergest-Holt's September 13 sentencing, "it will result in a sentence of 36 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release," the Justice Department said, adding that Pendergest-Holt would also be subject to a fine of up to US$250,000.

In January 2009, the Justice Department said the SEC sought testimony and documents related to SIB's entire investment portfolio.

During her guilty plea, it said Pendergest-Holt admitted that "despite knowing that she was incapable of testifying about the vast majority of that portfolio," she agreed to testify before the SEC.

"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, and Holt admitted that she took this action intentionally and corruptly, knowing that her testimony would impede the SEC's investigation and help SIB continue operating," the Department of Justice said.

Stanford sentenced

In addition to Stanford and Pendergest-Holt, the Justice Department said a grand jury in the Southern District of Texas previously indicted additional co-conspirators, James Davis, who was Stanford's chief financial officer; former chief accounting officer Gilberto Lopez; former controller Mark Kuhrt and former head of the Antiguan Financial Services Regulatory Commission Leroy King.

Stanford was sentenced two weeks ago to 110 years in prison for masterminding a US$7 billion Ponzi scheme involving high-yield certificates of deposit at SIB.

Davis previously pleaded guilty and faces up to 30 years in prison, the Justice Department said.

It said the cases against the remaining defendants are still pending.