Robert Allen Stanford, 59, chairman of the Houston-based Stanford Financial Group (SFG), three SFG executives and the former chief executive officer of the Antiguan bank regulatory agency have been indicted on fraud and obstruction charges related to a $7 billion scheme to defraud investors.
Also charged in an indictment returned in Houston yesterday and unsealed today was Laura Pendergest-Holt, 35, SFG’s chief investment officer; Gilberto Lopez, 66, SFG’s chief accounting officer; Mark Kuhrt, 37, SFG’s global controller; and Leroy King, 63, the former administrator and CEO of Antigua’s Financial Services Regulatory Commission. Stanford was arrested in Virginia last night, and is scheduled to make an initial appearance today in Richmond. Lopez and Kuhrt were arrested this morning and will make initial appearances in Houston this afternoon. Pendergest-Holt, who previously was indicted on obstruction-related charges, will make her initial appearance on the charges unsealed today in Houston in the near future.
"The Department of Justice will vigorously root out and expose financial crimes that wreak havoc on innocent investors," said Lanny A. Breuer, Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division. "Investors need access to accurate and truthful financial information in order to make decisions about how to invest their hard-earned savings. Their savings, and indeed the integrity of our capital markets, are jeopardized when investors are deceived. These difficult economic times make the mission of the Department all the more important."
"The investing public needs to be assured that it is protected from those who would corruptly deprive them of their financial security," said U.S. Attorney Tim Johnson of the Southern District of Texas. "When individuals or business entities engage in fraudulent activity designed to deprive investors of their assets, we will devote whatever resources necessary to bring them to justice."
"Economic crime schemes such as those alleged here today are unfortunately all too commonplace," said Assistant Director Kevin Perkins, FBI Criminal Investigative Division. "These crimes strike at the heart of our economy and our quality of life."
"The IRS is united with the federal law enforcement community in our resolve to put out of business those financial schemes that defraud investors and the U.S. government," said Eileen Mayer, Chief, IRS Criminal Investigation. "This is particularly true as it relates to international financial fraud, and we will continue to follow the money in order to bring those responsible to justice."
"Robert Stanford’s investors trusted him and his associates, in many instances, with their life savings," said Gregory Campbell, Deputy Chief Inspector, U.S. Postal Inspection Service. "When allegations are made that the U.S. Mail has been used to violate such a trust, it’s our job as Postal Inspectors to restore America’s confidence in the integrity of its postal system and help to bring the violators to justice."
According to the indictment, Stanford and his co-defendants engaged in a scheme to defraud investors who purchased approximately $7 billion in certificates of deposit administered by Stanford International Bank Ltd. (SIBL), an offshore bank controlled by Stanford and located on the island of Antigua. Stanford and his co-defendants allegedly misused and misappropriated most of those investor assets, including diverting more than $1.6 billion into undisclosed personal loans to Stanford himself, while misrepresenting to investors SIBL’s financial condition, its investment strategy and the extent of its regulatory oversight by Antiguan authorities. For example, the indictment alleges the following:
- That the defendants allegedly falsely claimed that SIBL’s assets grew from approximately $1.2 billion in 2001 to approximately $8.5 billion in December of 2008. The indictment alleges that, in fact, approximately $5 billion of SIBL’s reported assets consisted of notes on loans to Stanford and grossly overstated interests in "island properties," including more than $2 billion added to the books in 2008 from an allegedly artificial real estate deal that Stanford and his co-conspirators conceived to inflate the bank’s reported assets;
- That Stanford and his co-defendants allegedly falsely represented to investors that SIBL’s investment strategy was to "minimize risk and achieve liquidity" and promised rates of return on CDs that in the end were simply too good to be true in light of the bank’s actual investments and assets; and
- That Stanford and his co-defendants allegedly made false and misleading representations about the regulatory scrutiny of the bank by Antiguan authorities, when, in fact, Stanford was making corrupt payments of more than $100,000 to King to ensure that the Antiguan bank regulatory authority that he headed did not accurately audit, or verify the assets reported in the bank’s financial statements.
Also according to the indictment, Stanford, Pendergest-Holt and King conspired to conceal the fraud from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in order to fend off an SEC investigation. King allegedly provided Stanford and others with confidential information that he had received from an official SEC inquiry into a possible fraud on investors by SIBL so that additional false representations concerning SIBL’s financial health and Antiguan regulatory oversight could be made. In addition, Stanford, Pendergest-Holt and others allegedly agreed that Pendergest-Holt would provide false information to the SEC about the true value of SIBL’s investment portfolio.
The defendants are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail, wire and securities fraud; seven counts of wire fraud; ten counts of mail fraud; and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. The indictment also charges Stanford, Pendergest-Holt, and King with conspiracy to obstruct an SEC proceeding. The indictment seeks forfeiture of the proceeds of the fraud from all defendants, including forfeiture of specific foreign bank accounts controlled by Stanford, Davis and Pendergest-Holt.
Also unsealed today was a criminal information charging James M. Davis, 60, SFG’s chief financial officer, with conspiracy to commit mail, wire and securities fraud; mail fraud; and conspiracy to obstruct an SEC investigation. The information seeks forfeiture of up to $1 billion in fraud proceeds. Davis will make his initial appearance on these charges in Houston in the near future.
Additionally, also unsealed today was an indictment returned in the Southern District of Florida charging Bruce Perraud, 42, a former SFG Global Security Specialist, with destruction of records related to a federal investigation. Perraud allegedly ordered and supervised the destruction of numerous SFG documents housed at SFG’s Fort Lauderdale, Fla., office after he was put on notice that a federal court had ordered the preservation of SFG documents in connection with an SEC investigation and lawsuit. Perraud was arrested in the area of Naples, Fla., this morning and will make his initial appearance in the near future.
An indictment is merely an accusation and defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty at trial beyond a reasonable doubt.
The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Houston Field Office, Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The case is being prosecuted by individuals from the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, including Paul E. Pelletier, Principal Deputy Chief; Jack Patrick, Senior Litigation Counsel; Matthew Klecka, Trial Attorney; and Allan Medina, Law Clerk of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, as well as Gregg Costa, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Southern District of Texas.
The Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section assisted the trial team by working with our foreign counterparts to facilitate the freezing of more than $300 million of Stanford’s assets in the United Kingdom, Canada and other countries. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida also provided assistance in this matter.