Man accused of using makeup artist, disguise in fraud scheme

BATON ROUGE, La. — A Louisiana man hired a professional makeup artist and disguised himself as an Orthodox Jewish businessman during a long-running scheme to scam investors and banks out of more than $96 million, according to a federal indictment issued Thursday.

David D. deBerardinis, 56, of Shreveport, represented himself as a businessman in the petroleum industry and used false identities, phony bank statements and bogus news articles to perpetuate a fraud scheme that began in 2008 and lasted until at least July 2016, the indictment says.

The 10-page document doesn't elaborate on how deBerardinis allegedly used a makeup artist and disguise in 2013 to get more investor funds from an unidentified equity group based in New York.

He is charged with four counts of wire fraud and one count of attempted bank fraud. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the wire fraud counts and 30 years for the attempted bank fraud count. He also faces a $1 million fine, plus restitution and forfeiture, prosecutors said in a statement.

A Baton Rouge-based attorney for deBerardinis didn't immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment.

The indictment says deBerardinis represented himself as a businessman involved in the sale, trade and transport of fuel and falsely claimed he had an international shippers' license that had to be vetted by the FBI and U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

DeBerardinis assumed false identities and pretended to be actual company executives in communicating with investors to lend credence to nonexistent contracts and business relationships, the indictment says.

He solicited investments in his business in exchange for interest payments "and a guaranteed return of their principal," the document says. Citizens National Bank, Origin Bank and PlainsCapital Bank were among the financial institutions that lent money to deBerardinis' businesses, according to the indictment.

An investor from Dublin, Ireland, sued deBerardinis and one of his businesses, Financial Resources LLC, last February. The federal suit says the man was duped into investing $2.5 million in return for a promise he would be repaid and receive an additional interest payment of $250,000 within 60 days. The suit says the investor hadn't recovered any of his money when he sued.

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