Steven Alan Standridge, 58, Mount Ida, Arkansas was sentenced to 60 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release and victim restitution totaling $7,096,417.35 for his role in obtaining loans using false and fraudulent information.
Standridge pleaded guilty on July 2, 2014 to one count of wire fraud from a 23-count Indictment that was issued by a Federal Grand Jury in the Western District of Arkansas, and to one count of money laundering from a 12-count Indictment issued by a Federal Grand Jury in the Eastern District of Arkansas which was transferred to the Western District of Arkansas. The Honorable Susan O. Hickey presided over the sentencing in the United States District Court in Hot Springs.
The Indictment filed in the Western District of Arkansas alleged that Standridge, who was president of Steve Standridge Insurance, Inc. (SSI) arranged for the 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 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 Hot Springs corporation 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 insurance agency which had never conducted business nor earned any income. Standridge pleaded guilty to count 3 of the Indictment charging him with wire fraud for this scheme to defraud the Hot Springs area business.
The Eastern District Indictment against Standridge followed pleas of guilty to an Information by Danny Wood, Idabel, Oklahoma and Gregory A. Hunt, Russellville, Arkansas. On March 2, 2012, Wood pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting bank fraud. On July 6, 2012, Wood was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment. On June 6, 2012, Hunt pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting bank fraud. Hunt was sentenced on October 31, 2010 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 these 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 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 issued 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. 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.
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 the sentence.
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 Western District of Arkansas by Assistant United States Attorney Kenneth Elser and in the Eastern District of Arkansas by Assistant United States Attorneys Patricia S. Harris and Kristin Bryant.
United States Attorney Eldridge commented, “Our economy in Arkansas depends upon honest and fair dealing rather than deceit and fraud. In this case, the Defendant carried out several schemes to defraud, resulting in multi-million dollar losses to a company that is a vibrant part of the Hot Springs community and to other businesses and individuals. We will continue to work together to ensure that those who swindle and steal money from others are held accountable.”
“Steve Standridge used his standing in the community to deceive and defraud both individuals and hometown banks out of millions of dollars,” stated Thyer. “Standridge’s indictment establishes that the United States will seek justice for those harmed by such actions. And today’s sentence sends a clear message that crimes such as these will not be tolerated and will be pursued vigorously.”
“The significant sentence of Steven Standridge reflects the hard work and determined efforts provided by the United States Attorney’s Offices, the Internal Revenue-Criminal Investigation, Arkansas Insurance-Criminal Investigation Division, and the FBI in Little Rock and Nashville,” stated David T. Resch, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Little Rock, “This sentence further reflects the intolerance of the criminal justice system for those who engage in criminal schemes to enrich themselves at the expense of others.”
“IRS-Criminal Investigation is committed to unraveling complex fraud and money laundering schemes. We are proud to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute individuals who attempt to enrich themselves by fraudulent means,” stated Christopher A. Henry, Special Agent in Charge. “Today’s sentencing should send a clear message to those who would consider conducting or participating in these types of fraudulent financial transactions.”
“I commend all the parties involved for bringing this case to its conclusion,” said Arkansas Insurance Commissioner Jay Bradford. “I am especially proud of our Criminal Investigation, Legal, Finance, and Liquidation Divisions for their perseverance and continued cooperation with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”