SHREVEPORT, La. -- David deBerardinis, the Shreveport businessman accused of swindling investors out of tens of millions of dollars in a Ponzi scheme, has been ordered to undergo evaluation at a federal prison after notifying prosecutors he will now claim the insanity defense at trial.
It is the latest development in a case that has dragged on for two years amid pretrial jockeying by lawyers over what evidence can be presented at trial and deBerardinis’ mental condition.
The magistrate hearing pretrial matters, Mark Hornsby, questioned the timing of the insanity claim and said victims and the public could see it as delaying the day of reckoning.
That frustration was echoed by Michael Long of Shreveport, whose late brother was among those who lost a large amount of money investing with deBerardinis.
“All these delays are simply that: Delaying the inevitable,” Long said Thursday. “David (deBerardinis), get on with it; get ready to take your medicine.”
deBerardinis, 58, earlier had claimed his mental condition had deteriorated to the point he could not assist in his defense and therefore should not stand trial. After being committed to a federal medical facility for evaluation, Magistrate Hornsby concluded this past spring that while deBerardinis has some cognitive decline, he was competent to stand trial.
deBerardinis’ lawyers now say his condition has deteriorated to the point he might not have known right from wrong when the alleged scheme was occurring.
Hornsby has ordered deBerardinis be evaluated again at a federal prison that has a medical facility. deBerardinis has been free on bond awaiting trial, except for the time he was committed last year for evaluation.
deBerardinis is charged with scamming just over $100 million from investors and banks, who believed they were loaning him money to engage in energy trades that would earn the investors double-digit returns. Federal prosecutors and investors who have filed civil suits say it turned out to be an eight-year-long, Peter-to-Paul ploy of deception where deBerardinis used money from newer investors to pay earlier investors while he diverted investor money to himself. Documents were forged to make it look like trades were being made, prosecutors said.
A psychiatrist whose opinion is supported by federal prosecutors said earlier that deBerardinis was in an early, mild state of dementia. Doctors who testified on behalf of deBerardinis said his condition was more severe and is worsening.