Stanford Executive Arrested, Charged with Obstruction

A top executive working with accused billionaire fraudster R. Allen Stanford was arrested in Houston Thursday and charged with obstruction. Laura Pendergest-Holt, the chief investment officer at the Stanford Financial Group, was taken into custody by FBI agents after a criminal complaint charged that she made misrepresentations to the SEC in order to obstruct their securities fraud investigation into Stanford, who is alleged to have defrauded investors of an estimated $8 billion.

The complaint against Pendergest-Holt alleges that she made numerous misrepresentations to the SEC while accompanied by a lawyer, including failing to reveal the extent of her knowledge about one of the firm's investment portfolios and her involvement in one of the firm's investment committees.

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Pendergest-Holt will appear Friday at a federal courthouse in Houston. Her attorney, Dan Cogdell, told ABC affiliate KTRK that his client has been cooperating with the SEC for several weeks.

"Instead of being thanked for her cooperation, she was arrested," said Cogdell. "She will plead not guilty, because she is not guilty of this, nor is she guilty of any fraud at Stanford."

The FBI affidavit in the case also notes there are several cooperating witnesses in the investigation into Stanford and that the FBI has been investigating his firm since June 2008.

Meanwhile, authorities continue to interview other Stanford officials. Stanford Financial board member James Stanford, the 81-year-old father of Allen, was interviewed by SEC officials earlier this week.

Fellow board member Robert S. Winter, 84, told ABC News Thursday he has retained a lawyer, in expectation of meeting with the SEC.

Stanford Accused of Swindling $8 Billion

Stanford was located by FBI officials last week and served with civil papers by the SEC, putting an end to a nationwide search.

Stanford later turned in his passport to federal prosecutors, saying "he would not flee," according to one of Stanford's lobbyists, Ben Barnes.

Stanford is "very depressed," Barnes said, and sought to end a federal manhunt for him by directly approaching officials at the Justice Department, Barnes added.

Earlier last week, the SEC accused Stanford of defrauding 50,000 customers around the world by lying about the return rate on certificates of deposits offered by his firm.

U.S. Marshals seized his company and its assets, under an emergency federal court order sought by the SEC.

Click Here for the Investigative Homepage.

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