Robert Bernardi Guilty to Commit Securities Fraud

Former CEO Of Email Security Company Pleads Guilty To $50 Million Scheme To Defraud Investors And Lenders.

(STL.News) Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that ROBERT BERNARDI, the founder, and former Chief Executive Officer of the Virginia-based email security company GigaMedia Access Corporation, d/b/a GigaTrust (“GigaTrust”), pled guilty today in Manhattan federal court in connection with a scheme to defraud investors and lenders of millions of dollars through false and misleading misrepresentations, including fabricated bank statements and audit reports, and by impersonating a purported customer, auditor, and GigaTrust lawyer.  U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe accepted the defendant’s guilty plea.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “Robert Bernardi, founder and former CEO of Gigatrust, a purported market-leading provider of cloud-based content security solutions, used the prolific reputation of his company to secure upwards of $50 million in loans and investments.  But, as he admitted today, Bernardi’s representations to lenders and investors were just a house of cards built on a series of lies.”

According to the allegations in the Indictment and other filings and statements made in court:

From in or about 2016 through at least in or about 2019, GigaTrust was a private company headquartered in Virginia that purported to be a market-leading provider of cloud-based content security solutions.  BERNARDI founded GigaTrust and served as its CEO, while NIHAT CARDAK and SUNIL CHANDRA were GigaTrust’s CFO and Vice President of Business Development, respectively.

The defendants devised a scheme to defraud investors and lenders by (a) fabricating and disseminating false and misleading bank account statements that overstated GigaTrust’s cash deposits; (b) fabricating and disseminating false and misleading audit materials that purported to have been issued by GigaTrust’s auditors and overstated GigaTrust’s performance; (c) forging and disseminating a false and misleading letter purporting to be from GigaTrust’s New York-based counsel; and (d) impersonating or causing others to impersonate a purported customer and auditor of GigaTrust on telephone calls with a prospective lender.

Specifically, BERNARDI sent fabricated audit materials to a New York-based investment firm, and BERNARDI and CARDAK used fabricated bank statements to obtain multiple rounds of loans and investments for GigaTrust, worth millions of dollars.  After a New York-based bank (“Bank-1”), which had loaned GigaTrust $25 million, declared that GigaTrust had defaulted on the terms of its loan agreement, BERNARDI and CARDAK induced additional investments in GigaTrust through, among other things, forging a letter purporting to be from GigaTrust’s New-York based counsel.

Shortly thereafter, while negotiating another $25 million deal with a lender (“Lender-1”), BERNARDI and CARDAK devised a scheme to impersonate a GigaTrust customer and auditor on requested diligence calls, which induced Lender-1 to make a $25 million loan to GigaTrust. BERNARDI recruited CHANDRA to pose as one of GigaTrust’s alleged customers on a call with Lender-1. BERNARDI and CARDAK also fabricated bank statements and sent them to Lender-1 right before closing the $25 million deal.

GigaTrust filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in the District of Delaware on or about November 27, 2019.

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BERNARDI, 68, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

The maximum potential sentences, in this case, are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in this case.  Mr. Williams further thanked the Securities and Exchange Commission, which has filed a civil enforcement action against the defendants, for its cooperation and assistance in this investigation.

This case is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Unit.  Assistant United States Attorneys Peter J. Davis and Emily A. Johnson are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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