by Gwen Moritz
Posted 7/2/2014 11:43 am
Updated 4 weeks ago
Steve Standridge, whose insurance agency empire crumbled in 2010, pleaded guilty Wednesday to two of the 35 felonies with which he had been charged, but he reserved the right to withdraw his plea if U.S. District Judge Susan O. Hickey doesn't accept the sentence he negotiated with federal prosecutors.
Standridge, 57, and federal prosecutors for both the Eastern and Western Districts of Arkansas agreed that a prison sentence of 60 months and restitution of almost $7.1 million would be appropriate in exchange for his plea of guilty to one count of wire fraud in the Western District and one count of money laundering in the Eastern District. What's more, federal prosecutors won't object if Standridge asks for a sentence of at least 36 months in federal prison, provided he has paid at least 80 percent of the restitution before he is sentenced.
A sentencing date has not been set.
A grand jury in the Eastern District, where Christopher Thyer is U.S. Attorney, indicted Standridge on 12 counts in August 2012. He pleaded guilty to one count of it: money laundering related to the misappropriation of a $350,000 premium finance loan that he arranged with the Bank of Delight.
(Two of Standridge's customers, Danny Wood of Idabel, Oklahoma, and Gregory A. Hunt of Russellville, pleaded guilty in 2012 to participating in Standridge's crimes in the Eastern District. Hunt later died in federal prison.)
Standridge also pleaded guilty to one of the 23 counts included in an indictment issued last October by a federal grand jury in the Western District, where Conner Eldridge is the U.S. Attorney. Specifically, Standridge admitted lying in an email used to persuade Don Gigerich, president of Gigerich Electrical Inc. of Hot Springs, to lend him $2.7 million.
The victims to whom the restitution will be paid are Gigerich Electrical Inc., $2.7 million; Chambers Bank of Danville, $2.9 million; Travelers Insurance Co., $1.37 million; and the Bank of Delight, $122,400.
"This case shows that we are focused on combating fraud throughout the state of Arkansas," Eldridge said in a press release. "This Defendant carried out various schemes to defraud Arkansas business 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 ohters."
Thyer said Standridge had "used his reputation and standing in the community to undermine the trust of hometown banks and destroyed the livelihood of a small business owner. 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."