UPDATE: Pendergest-Holt pleads not guilty

HOUSTON – The chief investment officer of Texas billionaire R. Allen Stanford’s companies has pleaded not guilty to blocking a federal investigation.

Laura Pendergest-Holt will remain free on bond after being indicted this week in Houston on two charges of blocking a Securities and Exchange Commission probe of the Stanford Financial Group. Also in court Thursday, a trial date was set for July 20.

Pendergest-Holt, the first person indicted in the federal investigation of the troubled firm, was arrested and charged in February and was freed on a $300,000 bond. If convicted, she could be sentenced up to five years in prison for each count.

Federal investigators accuse Stanford and his finance chief, James M. Davis, of conducting a “massive Ponzi scheme.”

The Associated Press