The Memphis Fall Girl


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The latest indictment of Laura Pendergest-Holt in the Stanford Financial scandal alleges that she lied to investigators and investors, but it also indicates that she was thrown to the wolves of the Securities Exchange Commission by Allen Stanford and her Mississippi benefactor, James Davis.

Holt, 35, who worked out of the Crescent Center in East Memphis, gave financial advise on local radio stations, and grew up in Baldwyn, Mississippi, was indicted this week for the second time on federal criminal charges.

The indictment was made public Friday in Houston. Davis, 60, who is also from Baldwyn, was not included in the indictment but is named in a separate criminal information filing. Baldwyn residents say Davis mentored Holt and other bright young people and started a church near Baldwyn. She attended Mississippi University for Women and Mississippi State University. Davis and Stanford were college roommates in Texas.

The SEC investigation began in 2005 while Stanford was going strong, making lots of donations in Memphis and Tupelo, and selling millions of dollars worth of high-yielding investments. The indictment says Holt, who was the chief investment officer, was "held out to investors, employees and others as managing the entire investment portfolio of Stanford International Bank" and also supervised research analysts.

"In truth and fact," the indictment says, "Holt ultimately managed less than approximately 10 percent of SIBL's investment portfolio."

Holt allegedly lied to investigators in February 2009 in meetings in Memphis and in Florida to delay sworn testimony from Davis and Stanford.

SIBL's attorney represented that Hold "would be a better witness" than the two men.

Holt was previously indicted for obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice. She pleaded not guilty.

The prosecution says Stanford Financial defrauded investors out of some $7 billion in a scheme involving what the firm called certificates of deposit (CD) that paid an unusually high return and lucrative one-percent commissions to sales people. The indictment says a money laundering scheme sent investor money from places such as Memphis to a bank in Texas, then offshore, and then back to investors who asked for redemptions of the bogus CDs.

Stanford Financial was the sponsor of the pro golf tournament at Southwind before the scandal broke.

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