HOUSTON (CN) – Stanford International Bank’s former chief investment officer pleaded guilty to obstructing the SEC investigation of the $7 billion Ponzi scheme, and faces up to three years in prison if the judge accepts her plea, federal prosecutors said.
Laura Pendergest-Holt, 38, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge David Hittner, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
Pendergest-Holt testified before the SEC about Stanford International Bank’s investment portfolio in 2009.
“Holt admitted that despite knowing that she was incapable of testifying about the vast majority of that portfolio, Holt agreed to testify before the SEC,” prosecutors said in a statement. “Holt acknowledged that her eventual appearance and sworn testimony before the SEC was a stall tactic designed to frustrate the SEC’s efforts to obtain important information about SIB’s investment portfolio and Holt admitted that she took this action intentionally and corruptly, knowing that her testimony would impede the SEC’s investigation and help SIB continue operating.”
Pendergest-Holt took the plea a week after the bank’s founder Allen Stanford was sentenced to 110 years in federal prison.
In February 2009 the SEC charged Stanford and three of his companies with orchestrating a $7 billion Ponzi scheme, defrauding nearly 30,000 investors from 113 countries.
The SEC froze his companies’ assets and appointed a receiver to recover assets for investors.
The SEC claimed that Stanford and his Antigua-based bank pulled off the fraud by selling certificates of deposit with unsubstantiated high interest rates. Stanford claims his bank’s investment strategy had produced double-digit returns for 15 years.
The government also accused Stanford of diverting $1.6 billion from the CDs into personal loans.
Stanford has been jailed since June 17, 2009.
If Pendergest-Holt’s plea deal is accepted at her Sept. 13 sentencing hearing, she also faces a $250,000 fine.