The competency hearing of a Shreveport, Louisiana businessman accused of defrauding investors involved the testimony of four expert witnesses who had differing opinions on whether he is competent to stand trial.
The Alleged Crimes
The U.S. Attorney’s Office Western District of Louisiana charged Shreveport, Louisiana businessman, David deBerardinis, with a five-count indictment that alleged he defrauded more than $96 million from investors and financial institutions.
According to the Department of Justice, deBerardinis misrepresented himself through the use of fake documents, identities, business transactions, and other false information. The Department of Justice claims that deBerardinis operated multiple business entities and represented himself as part of the petroleum industry involved in the sale, trade, and transport of fuel. The Department of Justice also alleges that deBeradinis attempted to cover his misconduct by creating fake documents, bank statements, promissory notes, news articles, and even hiring a makeup artist to disguise himself as an Orthodox Jewish businessman to attempt to obtain investor funds from a New York-based private equity group.
David deBerardinis faces charges of mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, money laundering and false statement to a bank. If convicted, he faces 20 and 30 years in prison, respectively. He also faces a $1 million fine, restitution, forfeiture, and five years of supervision for each charge.
Motion to Determine Competency
In March, deBerardinis filed a motion, under seal, to determine competency.
The request represented that a preliminary report from a physician determined deBerardinis “may not be mentally competent to assist in his defense or to stand trial,” stated a memorandum order signed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark L. Hornsby.
The Competency Hearing
At the competency hearing, four experts who have evaluated deBerardinis over the past year offered testimony regarding their evaluations.
Dr. Samuel Browning, a forensic psychologist employed with the Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, testified on behalf of the government. Dr. Browning evaluated deBerardinis in August at the Federal Medical Center after the question was raised on whether the defendant was mentally capable of trial. Dr. Browning testified that he believed that deBerardinis is competent to stand trial.
deBerardinis’ defense team called Dr. Robert Ouaou as their first expert witness. Dr. Ouaou is a neuropsychologist who examined deBerardinis in the spring. During that examination, Dr. Ouaou determined that deBaradinis had symptoms of psychiatric disorders.
Defense expert Dr. Erin David Bigler, a neuropsychologist, provided testimony via video conference call. Dr. Bigler’s testimony related to his analysis of deBerardinis’ MRI scans and amounts of white matter in his brain.
The defense team also called Dr. George Woods as an expert. Dr. Woods is a neuropsychiatrist who spoke on the symptoms of cognitive and psychiatric disorders he observed in deBerardinis.
The Department of Justice and the defense team agree that deBarardinis claims he has done business with a man named “Albert” and that the man exists despite it being proven that the persona is fictional. The persona is believed to have been created around 2008.
The decision regarding deBerardinis’ competency is expected to come sometime in the new year.