FBI agents have arrested the chief investment officer of troubled Stanford Financial Group, accusing Laura Pendergest-Holt of obstructing a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) fraud investigation.
The SEC has been investigating allegations of an US$8 billion investment fraud involving Texas billionaire R. Allen Stanford’s financial group. Stanford was served legal papers by FBI agents last week and ordered to surrender his passport, but has not been charged with a crime.
Pendergest-Holt was arrested on Thursday in Houston, where Stanford Financial Group is based. The FBI said she had been taken to the federal detention center and was to appear in federal court yesterday morning for an arraignment.
“She is looking forward to working with the government to get all the facts out and put this behind her,” her attorney Brent Baker said.
The government alleges in a federal complaint that Pendergest-Holt obstructed the investigation with some of her answers to SEC investigators’ questions, including failing to reveal how much she knew about investments in Stanford International Bank Ltd.
The FBI said in an affidavit that Pendergest-Holt repeatedly misrepresented how much she knew about the bank’s Tier III portfolio, which represented about 81 percent of the bank’s portfolio, and did not let the SEC investigators know that she had learned of a US$1.6 billion loan to a shareholder.
The complaint also alleges that Pendergest-Holt did not reveal that she was a member of the bank’s investment committee.
“We appreciate the quick and decisive action of the Department of Justice and the FBI, and thank them for their fine work and cooperation in this matter,” SEC Deputy Enforcement Director Scott Friestad said.