TEXAS, CMC – Laura Pendergest Holt, the former chief investment officer for convicted Texas financier Allen Stanford, has been sentenced to three years in jail for obstructing a US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) probe of Standford’s US $7 billion Ponzi scheme involving his Antigua-based Stanford International Bank (SIB).
US District Judge David Hittner imposed the sentence here on Pendergest Holt, 39, on Thursday. She was the third-highest- ranking executive in Stanford’s firm.
“I’m sorry that I was so trusting … he didn’t deserve my trust,” she told the court, referring to her former boss. “And, in so trusting, I harmed others.”
Hittner agreed with Assistant US Attorney Jason Varnado, the prosecutor arguing the government’s case, that Pendergest Holt be taken into custody rather than allowed to report to prison next month, as she had asked.
Holt’s lawyer, Chris Flood, had argued for home confinement or assignment to a halfway house, saying that federal sentencing guidelines might have left her with as little as a one-year term instead of the three she agreed to. But Varnado countered that a guideline-based sentence probably would have been just three months less.
Pendergest Holt faced a trial on 21 counts before agreeing in June to plead to one count of obstruction in exchange for the 36-month prison term.
Family members and friends also submitted 22 letters urging a lenient sentence.
Pendergest Holt was the first of Stanford’s associates to be accused of a crime. She was initially charged with obstruction in February 2009, and was re-indicted along with Stanford and three others in June 2009.
Pendergest Holt admitted to lying to investors and to the firm’s financial advisers, claiming she oversaw a stable of international money managers who invested the bulk of the bank’s assets in conservative, liquid assets.
In addition to her prison term, she has been sentenced to three years’ supervision after her release.
Stanford, who was convicted of orchestrating and concealing the fraud scheme in March, is serving a 110-year sentence at a US federal prison in Florida.
He is appealing his conviction and sentence, while a court-appointed receiver marshals his assets to repay investors who lost more than US $7 billion on fraudulent certificates of deposit at the SIB.
Jury selection in the trial of two more defendants in the case, Stanford ex-Chief Accounting Officer Gilbert Lopez and former Global Controller Mark Kuhrt, is set for September 28. A former Antiguan financial regulator was also indicted and awaits extradition to the US.