By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
Baldwyn native Laura Pendergest-Holt is scheduled for a federal court appearance in Houston, Texas, on Thursday, when she may plead guilty to participation in the $7.2 billion Stanford financial fiasco.
Bloomberg News reported the 38-year-old will admit to obstruction of a federal investigation and receive a three-year prison sentence for her role in the scheme, which cost 30,000 investors worldwide their life savings and retirement funds.
Holt, working out of Memphis and Tupelo, was chief investment officer for Stanford Financial Group when it collapsed in mid-2009 under the weight of a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation.
Holt’s plea agreement, if there is one, isn’t public yet. Without this deal, she faces trial Sept. 10 on 21 counts from money laundering and mail fraud to conspiracy and obstruction. She has denied any wrongdoing.
It’s possible that during her “re-arraignment” hearing, she will plead guilty to a new or superseding indictment or what’s called an information, which is a charge that doesn’t go through a grand jury like an indictment does.
The government re-indicted the company’s leader, Robert Allen Stanford, on fewer counts in May 2011.
Her Stanford boss and former lover, James M. Davis, pleaded guilty to a three-count information in August 2009 related to the Stanford scandal.
Davis, formerly of Union County, faces up to 30 years in prison but said he hopes for leniency after he helped the government make its case and testified during Stanford’s seven-week trial earlier this year.
He said he met Holt in a Baldwyn Bible study class he and his wife led.
In February 2009, Holt was arrested and freed on $300,000 bond on accusations she gave false testimony to the SEC, as it pursued questions about Stanford dealings. Eleven days later, the SEC sued Stanford companies and executives alleging their complicity in the investor scam.
She was indicted May 12, 2009, on two counts related to the alleged obstruction of the SEC’s investigation.
Just days before SFG collapsed, Holt told its investors and the firm’s financial advisers that she oversaw a stable of international money managers responsible for the bulk of the bank’s assets. She may have had authority over as little as 20 percent of the bank’s assets, according to testimony during Stanford’s trial.
Prosecutors charged her with conspiring to mislead investors with Stanford and Davis, the chief financial officer. During Stanford’s trial, Davis told jurors he had a three-year affair with Holt that ended in 2003, and that Stanford approved of the romance between his two top deputies.
Holt, Stanford, two other former Stanford executives and an ex-Antiguan bank regulator were indicted June 18, 2009, on multiple charges – accusing them of varying roles in support of the investor fraud through certificate of deposit sales by Stanford International Bank Ltd. in Antigua.
A jury found Stanford guilty on 13 of 14 counts March 6, and U.S. District Judge David Hittner sentenced him to 110 years in prison last week.