June 21, 2012 / 4:38 PM / in 6 years

Ex-Stanford exec Holt pleads guilty to obstruction

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Laura Pendergest-Holt, the chief investment officer of Allen Stanford’s defunct financial firm, pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction on Thursday for her role in a $7 billion Ponzi scheme.

The plea from Pendergest-Holt, 38, was entered in federal court in Houston before U.S. District Judge David Hittner.

Pendergest-Holt was charged with lying to lawyers from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission who were investigating Stanford’s fraud in 2009.

“I knew I was delaying the SEC,” the former executive told the court in a tearful voice.

The obstruction charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, but the plea deal with prosecutors calls for a sentence of only three years. Hittner said he would consider that deal at her sentencing, which is set for September 13.

Stanford was convicted in March of bilking investors around the world by using bogus certificates of deposit from his offshore bank in Antigua. He was sentenced to 110 years in prison on June 14.

Reporting By Kristen Hays; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Lisa Von Ahn

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