Mount Ida Man Pleads Guilty to Money Laundering and Wire Fraud
TEXARKANA, AR—Conner Eldridge, United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas; Christopher R. Thyer, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas; David T. Resch, Special Agent in Charge of the Little Rock Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Christopher A. Henry, Special Agent in Charge of the Nashville Field Office of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division; announced today that Steven Alan Standridge, age 57, of Mount Ida, Arkansas entered pleas of guilty to money laundering and wire fraud counts related to indictments issued against him by federal grand juries in both the Western and Eastern Districts of Arkansas. Standridge pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud from a 23-count indictment issued by a Grand Jury in the Western District of Arkansas on October 30, 2013. Pursuant to the terms of the plea agreements, Standridge pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering from a twelve-count August 8, 2012, Indictment by a Grand Jury in the Eastern District of Arkansas which was transferred to the Western District of Arkansas. The plea took place before the Honorable Susan O. Hickey in United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas in Texarkana.
Pursuant to both plea agreements, Standridge and the United States agreed that a sentence of imprisonment of 60 months, to run concurrent, followed by a term of supervised release as determined by the court, and victim restitution totaling $7,096,417.35, is the appropriate sentence to be imposed by the court. The parties further agreed that should Standridge pay at least 80% of the restitution owed before sentencing, the United States would not object to Standridge seeking a variance in sentence to 36 months. The United States will oppose any variance below 36 months. The plea agreements provide that if the court does not accept these sentencing terms, Standridge may withdraw his pleas.
The indictment issued in the Eastern District of Arkansas charged Standridge with one count of conspiring to commit bank fraud, four counts of aiding and abetting bank fraud, one count of bank fraud, five counts of money laundering, and one count of making a false statement to a financial institution. The indictment in the Western District of Arkansas charged Standridge with eight counts of wire fraud, one count of mail fraud, two counts of money laundering, six counts of bank fraud, and six counts of making a false statement to a financial institution.
U.S. Attorney Eldridge stated, “This case shows that we are focused on combating fraud throughout the state of Arkansas. This Defendant carried out various schemes to defraud Arkansas businesses and individuals. Such conduct takes advantage of legitimate hard-working people in our state. We will continue to work together to prosecute those who seek to steal or swindle money from others.”
“Standridge used his reputation and standing in the community to undermine the trust of hometown banks and destroyed the livelihood of a small business owner,” stated Thyer. Actions, such as those admitted to today by Standridge, have long-standing negative effects when friends and business associates resort to deception for personal gain. Hopefully, this plea today and the subsequent sentence to follow, will allow some measure of closure for those affected and they can move forward to rebuild their lives and businesses. I am grateful for the diligence of the many investigators, especially the investigators at the Arkansas Insurance Department, and the prosecutors in both the Eastern and Western Districts of Arkansas for their pursuit of justice for the citizens of Arkansas.”
“The FBI vigorously pursues those who commit sophisticated bank fraud and money laundering schemes that threatens the stability of banking institutions,” said David T. Resch, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Little Rock Field Office, “This indictment demonstrates the collective determination of our federal and state partners in maintaining public trust and ensuring its continuation.”
“Honest and law abiding citizens are fed up with the likes of those who use deceit and fraud to line their pockets with other people’s money,” said Henry. “Those individuals who engage in this type of financial fraud should know they will not go undetected and will be held accountable. We are pleased with the successful resolution of this investigation due to the cooperative efforts of our law enforcement partners.”
“I commend all the parties involved for bringing this case to its rightful conclusion,” said Arkansas Insurance Commissioner Jay Bradford. “I am especially proud of our Criminal Investigation, Legal, and Liquidation Divisions for their perseverance and continued cooperation with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”
The Eastern District Indictment against Standridge followed pleas of guilty to an Information by Danny Wood of Idabel, Oklahoma and Gregory A. Hunt of Russellville, Arkansas. On March 2, 2012, Wood pled guilty to aiding and abetting bank fraud. On July 6, 2012, Wood was sentenced to 30 months’ imprisonment. On June 6, 2012, Hunt pled guilty to aiding and abetting bank fraud. Hunt was sentenced on October 31, 2012 to 33 months’ imprisonment.
Throughout the time period set forth in both Indictments, Standridge owned, operated, and/or managed various independent insurance agencies in the State of Arkansas. Through those companies, Standridge provided various types of insurance policies and bonds to his customers including Danny Wood and Gregory A. Hunt.
The Indictment against Standridge filed in the Eastern District of Arkansas alleged that Standridge conspired with Wood and Hunt to commit bank fraud. The Indictment stated that as part of the conspiracy, Standridge arranged for Wood, Hunt, and their companies to obtain premium finance loans from banks located in the Eastern District of Arkansas. Premium finance loans are made to insureds to cover the cost of an insurance premium. The insurance policy purchased with the loan proceeds serves as the collateral for the loan. Standridge would either purchase the insurance policies that were collateral for those loans and then later cancel the policies or would never purchase the policies that were listed on the premium finance agreements. The proceeds of those loans were ultimately paid to Standridge and were used for purposes other than those set forth in the loan agreements.
The Indictment filed in the Western District of Arkansas alleged that Standridge who was president of Steve Standridge Insurance, Inc. (SSI) arranged for SSI to obtain loans from a corporation located in Hot Springs, Arkansas by falsely representing that SSI would use the loans to purchase two insurance agencies and that Standridge submitted false information to a bank in Hot Springs, Arkansas in an attempt to obtain a loan for SSI to purchase an insurance agency. The Indictment alleged that there were no agreements to purchase the insurance agencies as represented by Standridge and that he used the $2.7 million dollar loans obtained from the Hot Springs corporation for other purposes.
According to the plea agreement filed in the Western District of Arkansas, in January 2010 Standridge falsely represented to the president of the corporation Hot Springs that SSI was buying two insurance agencies and had obtained bank loans for these purchases. Standridge obtained $2.7 million from the corporation to purchase these insurance agencies with the promise that these loans would be repaid with the proceeds from the bank loans. The investigation revealed that SSI had no agreement to purchase these insurance agencies and that SSI had not arranged any bank loans to finance these fictitious purchases. In furtherance of his fraudulent scheme Standridge sent e-mails to the president of the corporation including an e-mail sent on January 26, 2010, containing false and fraudulent income statements for one of the insurance agency which agency had never conducted business nor earned any income. Standridge plead guilty to count three of the Indictment charging him with wire fraud for sending this e-mail.
The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation with the assistance of the Arkansas Insurance Department-Criminal Investigation Division. This case was prosecuted in the Eastern District of Arkansas by Assistant United States Attorneys Patricia S. Harris and Kristin Bryant, and in the Western District of Arkansas by Assistant United States Attorney Kenneth Elser.