SHREVEPORT, La. -- David deBerardinis, the Shreveport businessman accused of defrauding investors and financial institutions in a multimillion dollar Ponzi scheme, has reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors that would result in a 15-year prison sentence, KTBS News has learned.
No date for the guilty plea has been set in federal court in Shreveport, but it is expected to be within a month, investors told KTBS News. They spoke on condition their names not be publicized because the plea agreement has not been made public.
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Under terms of the plea agreement, deBerardinis would admit to wire fraud in connection with a $29 million bank loan guaranteed by four investors -- but would also acknowledge his entire operation that promised big returns in energy trades was fraudulent, the sources said. Federal prosecutors and civil suits against deBerardinis allege the fraud exceeded $100 million and affected more than 20 investors.
deBerardinis, 59, remains free on bond pending his guilty plea and sentencing.
deBerardinis is charged with defrauding investors and banks, who believed they were loaning him money to act as a middleman in energy trades. Investors loaned deBerardinis money at double-digit interest rates.
Federal prosecutors say no trades were made and it was a Ponzi scheme where money from newer investors was used to pay back earlier investors while he diverted money to himself. Documents were forged to make it look like trades were being made, prosecutors said, alleging the fraud went on for eight years.
Shreveporter Michael Long's late brother, Patrick, was an early investor with deBerardinis but was not involved in the Dallas loan. The Long family said deBerardinis would receive loans from Patrick Long and repay them; Long continued providing loans and eventually had a net loss, they said.
Michael Long said he would like to hear an apology at the sentencing hearing.
"Nothing like that has ever come out of his mouth," Long said Thursday after being contacted by KTBS News. "I don't know if that's guilt or he's so embarrassed he can't bring himself to say anything about it."
The plea agreement is expected to address the issue of whether investors who lost money will receive some compensation, the investors said. Some investors made money investing with deBerardinis, who has noted those profits and said he was a victim of events outside his control when it came to some of the losses.
The heart of the federal case is the $29 million loan from the Dallas bank that was guaranteed by three Shreveport investors and a Dallas man. The bank sued them when the loan was defaulted on.