BY MELANIE BUCK –
Steve Standridge, a 58-year old insurance professional from Mt. Ida, was sentenced on Friday to 5 years in prison on the charges of money laundering and wire fraud. Standridge must also complete three years of supervised release and pay approximately $7 million in victim restitution.
Standridge owned and operated several insurance agencies around the state of Arkansas, one of which was located in Mena during the period of investigation. Standridge’s licence was suspended in 2010 and he was formally indicted in August 2012. Most charges from the 23-count indictment were dropped when Standridge pled guilty to one count of wire fraud and a 12-count indictment was cut to 1 count of money laundering.
“Our economy in Arkansas depends upon honest and fair dealing rather than deceit and fraud,” stated U.S. Attorney Connor Eldridge. Eldridge contended that Standridge was president of Steve Standridge Insurance, Inc., and obtained loans with a Hot Springs bank, under false information. He then told the president of a Hot Springs corporation that he would use the loan money to buy two insurance companies. He obtained $2.7 million dollars from that corporation to allegedly purchase the two proposed insurance companies, promising to repay the loan with monies from the bank loans. It was discovered that the $2.7 million in loan money was used for purposes other than what Standridge disclosed them to be.
Indictments were issued by both the Western District of Arkansas and the Eastern District of Arkansas. The original charges on the indictment from the Western District were: 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 Eastern District indictment contained charges for: 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.
Christopher R. Thyer, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas said, “Steve Standridge used his standing in the community to deceive and defraud, both individuals and hometown banks, out of millions of dollars. 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.”