A group of Shreveport businessmen who provided tens of millions of dollars to a local energy trading company are accusing the operator of diverting money to his personal use through a ruse of bogus trades and documents.

One lawsuit has been filed by a Dallas bank and three Shreveport businessmen who guaranteed a $29 million bank loan they say is delinquent. It alleges a "pervasive and sinister" scheme of fictitious trades, forged signatures and bogus financial statements to hide wrongdoing.

Other Shreveport residents who invested money have contacted attorneys because they are concerned about losing millions more they have invested, according to individuals familiar with the situation. No suits have been filed by those investors.

Named in the lawsuit, filed in Dallas County District Court, is David deBerardinis, founder of a Shreveport-based company that acted as a middleman in the lucrative business of buying and reselling fossil fuels. Investors and lenders provided funding for trades, according to the lawsuit -- which accuses deBerardinis of creating non-existent trading agreements between legitimate companies, sending fake emails that confirmed trades and misrepresenting his ownership in a pipeline that would be used to transport the fuels.

"The word 'sinister' was not chosen for dramatic effect but because it accurately describes what has transpired in this case," the sharply worded lawsuit alleges. "Every aspect of the 'business operation' run by defendant David deBerardinis is fake... No trading accounts, much less trading profits, have been found."

deBerardinis' attorney, Jerald Harper of Shreveport, did not return a phone call for comment on the allegations.

The FBI would not comment on whether it’s begun an investigation.

PlainsCapital Bank is trying to recoup the $29.5 million loan made to fund energy trades. The loan, which is now delinquent, was guaranteed by Shreveport businessmen Stephen Herbel, B. Craig Webb and Jerry Webb, the lawsuit said. They have joined the bank's efforts to recover the money.

Individuals familiar with the case describe the Shreveport investors -- both those who have filed suit and those considering legal action -- as wealthy, well-respected business people. Many had received large lease and royalty payments from property in the Haynesville Shale natural gas field. KTBS was not able to determine through interviews the number of local investors or the total amounts of their investments. Multiple attorneys are involved in the matter.

The suit by PlainsCapital Bank and the Shreveport businessmen was filed by Dallas attorney Jeffrey Tillitson, who once deposed seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong on behalf of a sports promotions company that tried to keep from paying bonuses to Armstrong for winning the fabled bicycle race. Armstrong's wins were vacated because of doping.

Read a copy of the lawsuit: PlainsCapital Bank v. FR III Funding LLC, David deBerardinis, Stephen R. Herbel, Patrick Mulligan, B. Craig Webb and Jerry Webb

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