SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – The federal trial of a Shreveport businessman accused of defrauding investors of nearly $100 million in a Ponzi scheme has been delayed until he can be examined to determine whether he is competent to stand trial.
Prosecutors asked the court to order a psychological evaluation for 57-year-old David deBerardinis after his defense team claimed he is mentally unfit to stand trial and assist in his own defense. The request was granted Friday by a federal magistrate, but deBarardinis’ request that it be done locally was denied. Instead, U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Hornsby ordered that the evaluation be conducted by a facility designated by the Bureau of Prisons. Hornsby noted in the ruling that “the court specifically finds that, in light of the unique nature of the issues raised by Defendant’s medical experts, commitment to a BOP medical facility is the appropriate course of action.”
The defense motions in which those unique issues were raised remain under seal.
deBerardinis is currently free on bond pending trial on mail fraud, bank fraud, and wire fraud charges. The trial was scheduled to begin in September 2019, but Hornsby Friday put it on hold without setting a new date.
The federal magistrate also denied deBerardinis’ request to have his defense attorney present during any interviews conducted during the mental evaluation and a request for a copy of the medical facility’s protocol for the examination.
Federal investigators say 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 between 2008 and 2016.
According to his federal indictment, deBerardinis operated numerous business entities and represented himself as part of the petroleum industry involved in the sale, trade, and transport of fuel. He even allegedly 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.
deBerardinis 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.