SHREVEPORT, La. -- Loans from two banks and complicity by a loan officer at each helped perpetuate a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme run by Shreveport businessman David deBerardinis, a group of investors say in adding the banks to a lawsuit against deBerardinis.
deBerardinis is accused of defrauding banks and investors who believed they were putting up money to fund lucrative energy trades, but were actually participants in a Ponzi scheme where no trades were made and much of the money funded a lavish lifestyle for deBerardinis. Seven civil suits have been filed by investors and federal prosecutors have charged deBerardinis with defrauding investors and banks out of $96 million.
The 57-year-old deBerardinis, who denies the charges, was scheduled to go on trial next month but it was delayed after he claimed he was mentally unfit to stand trial. A federal magistrate in Shreveport last month ordered deBerardinis to be evaluated and he is being held at a federal detention facility in Fort Worth.
Shreveport businessman Byrum Teekel, whose family runs an investment and insurance business, and eight other individuals have filed one of the suits against deBerardinis, alleging he defrauded them. On Thursday, they added two banks – PlainsCapital Bank of Dallas and Citizens National Bank of Bossier City – as defendants, saying a $29 million loan from PlainsCapital and a $5.5 million loan from CNB allowed deBerardinis to perpetuate his scheme. The suit, which seeks compensation for the investors' losses, also names a loan officer at each bank.
Each bank loaned money to deBerardinis “despite internal misgivings” about him, the lawsuit alleges, and Citizens also loaned Teekel more than $1 million to invest with deBerardinis. The loan officer at PlainsCapital got a $20,000 kickback from deBerardinis and eventually wound up working for him, the suit said. The loan officer at Citizens was paid more than $100,000 “under the table” and used the money to help pay for his son’s college education, the suit said.
“Without (the loan officer’s) assistance, the loan would not have been approved and the scheme would not have been able to perpetuate,” said the suit filed in Caddo District Court. Money from the banks was “funneled to other innocent investors to give the appearance that the enterprise was profitable and actually paying interest and returns as promised.”
PlainsCapital says it is a victim of deBerardinis and it has sued him and some of his investors who guaranteed the loan. CNB’s president on Friday did not respond to a request for comment on the suit.
deBerardinis’ accusers say he defrauded banks and investors who loaned him money to be the middleman in trades between energy companies in return for double-digit returns. They say it was an eight-year-long con: There were no trades, trade confirmations and banks statements showing cash on hand were fakes, and their money was used to prop up the Ponzi scheme and to fund a lavish lifestyle that included a sailboat, private airplanes, trips to the Caribbean, wining and dining, and a two-story house in southeast Shreveport.
deBerardinis is awaiting trial on the criminal charges in federal court in Shreveport. He is currently held at the Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth, where he is undergoing evaluation by mental health experts. U.S. Magistrate Mark Hornsby of Shreveport ordered deBerardinis evaluated at a federal facility after his lawyers claimed he might not be mentally fit to stand trial. deBerardinis had hoped to be evaluated here as an outpatient, court records show.
deBerardinis’ and his lawyers have refused public comment on the allegations.
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, attorneys involved in the case said.