The Shreveport businessman accused of defrauding investors out of at least $96 million faces new criminal charges and has been ordered to forfeit assets he allegedly obtained illegally — including a jet.
A grand jury indicted David deBerardinis on 13 new charges: six counts of mail fraud, four counts of wire fraud and singular counts of bank fraud, false statement to a bank and money laundering. The new indictment was filed in court on March 29.
Prosecutors are also forcing deBerardinis to forfeit assets, including the following:
A 1982 British Aerospace HS 125-700A, a twin-engine, mid-size business jet. The airplane is registered to the Double D Transit Co. LLC at 1915 E. 70th St. in Shreveport.
A sum of personal money equal to the money deBerardinis is accused in the federal charges of getting “directly or indirectly” through illegal activities.
A life insurance policy valued at about $203,000.
Money from several bank accounts totaling nearly $114,000
A 2014 Chevrolet Silverado.
A 2015 GMC Sierra.
The property at 300 Broodmare Drive, a house in the Pierremont Park Subdivision. Zillow estimates that the 4,080-square-foot, four-bedroom house would sell for $623,000.
deBerardinis’ lawyer, James Boren of Baton Rouge, was not immediately available for comment.
deBeraradinis was originally indicted in January on four counts of wire fraud and one count of attempted bank fraud.
Allegations made in the original indictment accused deBerardinis of going to extreme lengths in his deception, including disguising himself as an Orthodox Jewish businessman to obtain funds from a New York equity firm.
The underlying facts alleged in the new indictment appear to match those detailed in the January indictment. deBerardinis remains free after posting a $500,000 bond.
Prosecutors hinted at new charges for the Shreveport businessman in late February during a telephone conference. The choice, it seemed at the time: plead guilty or potentially face new charges.
“The Government anticipates over the next thirty days or so that it will produce hundreds of thousands of additional pages of documents,” the February court filing reads. “The Government indicated that a Superseding Indictment may be obtained if this matter is not resolved very promptly.”
Prosecutors also allege that deBerardinis “created or caused others to create” fraudulent documents — contracts, bank statements and checks, trading confirmations and promissory notes, among other items.
deBerardinis, allegedly posing as someone working in the petroleum industry, “used computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices and caused others to use computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices in ways that perpetuated the illusion of legitimate business functions and activities involving the purchase, sale and transport of fuel,” according to the new indictment.
Investors were allegedly required to sign non-disclosure agreements, allowing deBeraradinis “to lull investors into conducting minimal due diligence and to control the flow of information,” the indictment states.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Shreveport was unavailable for comment.
deBerardinis began his alleged thefts in 2008 and continued through at least July 2016. The defrauded investors were from the Shreveport area and elsewhere. deBerardinis also has been sued civilly related to the alleged investment losses.
Shreveport businessman David deBerardinis will remain free on unsecured bond while awaiting trial on charges he scammed nearly $100 million from investors and banks as part of what investors say was a Ponzi scheme.
deBerardinis, 56, was arraigned Monday at the United States Court House in Shreveport and pleaded not guilty to fraud charges. No trial date has been set.
U.S. Magistrate Mark Hornsby set conditions of deBerardinis remaining free pending trial: Abstain from alcohol and drug use, surrender his passport and not leave the area, except to meet with his out-of-town attorneys. deBerardinis was also ordered to have no contact with any witnesses in the case, although the magistrate made an exception: deBerardinis’ wife and children, who are potential witnesses.
“There are no second chances on a federal bond,” Hornsby warned in outlining the conditions he expected deBerardinis to abide by.
deBerardinis’ $500,000 bond was unsecured, meaning a specific asset or collateral did not have to be posted. Unsecured bonds are not unusual in white-collar crime cases where the defendant is not considered a flight risk.
“I’m always confident in my client’s plea of not guilty,” defense attorney Jim Boren of Baton Rouge said as he left the federal courthouse in downtown Shreveport. “It’s a great country to be in. You have a right to say not guilty and make the government prove its case.”
deBerardinis is accused of diverting investor money to himself in what civil suits against him call a Ponzi scheme. Investors believed they were buying into legitimate energy trades, but the grand jury said it was an eight-year-long con where he scammed $96 million from investors and banks to fund his operation.
Most investors are from Shreveport. Some lost their investments, some made money, others reinvested their profits and others are responsible for millions in bank loans to deBerardinis that they guaranteed.
Approximately a dozen investors attended the hearing. Some sat on the front row of the courtroom, a few feet from Deberardinis, who rocked in his chair before the hearing started but made no eye contact with them.
Among those in the courtroom was Michael Long, whose late brother, Patrick, guaranteed a loan to deBerardinis of more than $1 million before he died. The two had been friends since childhood.
“This whole situation is very unfortunate for everybody involved,” Long said outside the courthouse after the 10-minute hearing. “Mr. deBerardinis has basically shown a side of him that we never thought existed — but it’s there and seems to be playing out.
Federal prosecutors did not object to deBerardinis remaining free pending trial. deBerardinis has known for at least a year that he was under investigation. The FBI searched his house and seized documents early last year.
deBerardinis, wearing a brown sport coat, gave one- and two-word answers to the magistrate’s questions about his educational level and whether he understood the conditions of his release, but said nothing else during the hearing.
Hornsby scheduled a meeting with attorneys for later this month to discuss whether prosecutors have provided the defense all their evidence. Hornsby described the amount of evidence as “voluminous.”
One of those noting the fact deBerardinis was not arrested was Zack Blanchard, a longtime Shreveport attorney whose practice largely involves defense of the poor. In a letter to The Times newspaper, Blanchard said a shoplifter with little money often faces being locked up and “wined and dined on Kool Aid and baloney sandwiches until you can raise $500 to $1,000 for bail, an impossible task for most.”
“He (deBerardinis) is indicted by a federal grand jury for the theft of $96 million and gets a summons to be in court,” Blanchard said of his reason for writing the letter to the newspaper. “They don’t give a summons to poor people who are caught pilfering from the Walmart. I felt something needed to be said.”
Blanchard quipped that it was a “teachable moment: Never steal anything small.”
Investors believed they were loaning deBerardinis money — often at rates up to 17 percent — to be a middleman in fossil fuel trades between energy companies. There were no trades; documents and emails confirming trades were forged; and actual company executives were impersonated in emails to investors, the grand jury charged.
Federal authorities did not say what happened to the money deBerardinis is accused of taking, but half a dozen civil suits filed by 22 investors say deBerardinis used it to pay early investors — a classic Ponzi scheme technique — and to fund a lavish lifestyle that included a sailboat, a private airplane, trips to the Caribbean, wining and dining, and a two-story house in Shreveport’s Oak Hills subdivision.
The sailboat, airplane, a life insurance policy, vehicles and bank accounts totaling less than $100,000 have been seized by federal authorities, who said those are all the assets they have found.
and more BACKGROUND: Federal grand jury indicts Shreveport businessman for defrauding $96 million from investors and financial institutions
Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office Western District of Louisiana
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Thursday, January 25, 2018
SHREVEPORT, La. – United States Attorney Alexander C. Van Hook announced that a federal grand jury returned a five-count indictment charging a Shreveport businessman with scamming more than $96 million from investors and financial institutions. David D. deBerardinis, 56, of Shreveport, was charged with four counts of wire fraud and one count of attempted bank fraud. According to the indictment, from 2008 to 2016, deBerardinis falsely represented himself through the use of fake documents, identities, business transactions and other false information to obtain more than $96 million from investors and lending institutions. He operated numerous business entities and represented himself as part of the petroleum industry involved in the sale, trade and transport of fuel. The defendant created fraudulent documents, including fake bank statements, fake checks, fuel trade agreements, promissory notes, tolling agreement letters, news articles, in-line production tickets and other fake documents to misrepresent his business activities to investors. He even disguised himself as an Orthodox Jewish businessman at one point while trying to obtain investor funds from a New York-based private equity group after hiring a professional makeup artist. He also falsely claimed to have obtained an international shippers’ license, which required vetting by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security. Through these false statements and omissions to investors, deBerardinis obtained millions of dollars from investors in Shreveport, Louisiana and elsewhere. The defendant faces 20 years in prison for the wire fraud counts and 30 years in prison for the attempted bank fraud count. He also faces a $1 million fine, restitution, forfeiture, and five years of supervised release for each count. The FBI, U.S. Secret Service and the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Cytheria D. Jernigan, Christopher J. Stokes, Joseph A. Magliolo and Seth D. Reeg are prosecuting the case. The investigation and prosecution of this case has been a cooperative endeavor between the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in Shreveport and Dallas.