By Zachary A. Goldfarb
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 27, 2009
The first criminal action in the alleged $9.2 billion fraud orchestrated by R. Allen Stanford was taken yesterday as the FBI arrested the chief investment officer of Houston-based Stanford Financial Group and charged her with obstruction.
Laura Pendergest-Holt is accused of making misrepresentations to investigators from the Securities and Exchange Commission when being questioned about whether Stanford Financial was part of a scheme that defrauded investors with certificates of deposit.
The SEC filed civil charges against Allen Stanford, his three companies, Pendergest-Holt and another Stanford executive last week, alleging they misled customers about where their money was deposited and other misdeeds. Allen Stanford, who was located by the FBI in Stafford, Va., hasn't been charged with any crime.
The FBI, SEC and other federal authorities have been working on the case for years, and more criminal charges may be filed. The SEC acted because it determined that customers' investments were being liquidated rapidly.
The federal complaint alleges that Pendergest-Holt didn't reveal details she knew about Stanford's investments to investigators during multiple interviews.
On Feb. 10, Pendergest-Holt is said to have met with SEC investigators in Fort Worth. At that time, she didn't reveal that she had meet a week earlier with Stanford bank employees in Miami to discuss the investment portfolio, the federal complaint says. The complaint adds that Pendergest-Holt did not reveal to investigators that she was a member of the bank's investment committee, and when asked, and replied that she said she wasn't.
Pendergest-Holt will plead not guilty today, her lawyer, Brent R. Baker, said last night. "Ms. Holt is anxious to get all of the facts out and put this matter behind her as quickly as possible," he said.
In a release, the Department of Justice said the complaint is merely an accusation. She has not been indicted. The FBI, IRS and Postal Inspection Service are continuing to investigate, the release said.