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Stanford Investment Chief Hit with 2 Felony Counts

A federal grand jury in Houston has indicted the chief investment officer of Stanford Financial Group on two felony counts, marking the first criminal indictments in what the Securities and Exchange Commission calls a "massive Ponzi scheme."

Laura Pendergest-Holt, 35, faces one count of conspiracy to obstruct an agency investigation and one count of obstruction. In February, she was arrested and charged in a criminal complaint with a single count of obstruction, and the government had until today to secure an indictment against her.

She will appear in court in Houston to be arraigned on the indictment on Thursday, her attorney told CNBC.

As in the complaint, the indictment alleges that Pendergest-Holt hid details of Stanford Financial's holdings from investigators—including a $1.6 billion loan made by the company to Sir Allen Stanford, the Texas billionaire at the heart of the scandal.

CNBC Original:

  • Secrets of the Knight: Allen Stanford and the Missing Billions

Also allegedly hidden from investigators: $3.2 billion in Stanford assets that allegedly were made up of "artificially valued real estate." The additional count of conspiracy allows prosecutors to move her case from Dallas—where the alleged obstruction occurred—to Houston, where Stanford is based and where the criminal investigation is centered.

According to the indictment, Pendergest-Holt met with two Stanford executives in Miami and Houston in January to plan her SEC testimony—and the alleged obstruction. The executives are listed in the indictment as "Executive A" and "Executive B", but it is clear they are Allen Stanford and Chief Financial Officer James Davis.

Davis is cooperating with authorities and has not yet been charged; Stanford has told CNBC he expects to be indicted but intends to fight. Their attorneys were not immediately available for comment on the indictment.

The Securities and Exchange Commission sued Stanford, Davis, Holt and three Stanford companies in February with an $8 billion fraud involving high-yielding certificates of deposit issued by Stanford International Bank in Antigua.

While the Justice Department's investigation is ongoing, Pendergest-Holt is the only person so far to face criminal charges The conspiracy and obstruction counts each carry a maximum five-year prison sentence and a $250,000 fine.

Pendergest-Holt has been free on $300,000 bond since her arrest in February.