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Odessa adviser accused of Facebook fraud up for bail hearing

TAMPA — For seven years, Craig L. Berkman has lived in a nearly 12,000 square-foot, five-bedroom, eight-bathroom lakefront mansion in Odessa.

Thursday, the financier was being held by federal marshals at the Pinellas County Jail, with $50 in his commissary account to buy odds and ends at the canteen.

At 2:30 p.m. he was scheduled to go before a magistrate in Tampa federal court to see whether he'd get out of jail on bail — and if so, on how much.

Court records showed he would be represented by a federal public defender at the hearing.

Berkman, 71, was arrested Tuesday at his Odessa home and faces charges of securities fraud.

Federal prosecutors say he peddled shares of Facebook, piquing the interest of investors eager to get in on the ground floor of the social media company as it went public.

Problem is, federal authorities assert, he didn't actually control any shares of Facebook — and pocketed much of the $8 million he received from more than 50 investors, funneling $5.43 million to satisfy an earlier bankruptcy judgment against him and about $1.6 million toward personal expenses, including travel, dining and bank withdrawals.

The criminal case was being run out of New York and, court records suggest, subsequent hearings will he held up there.

Berkman moved to Florida in early 2006, leaving a life in Oregon where he had once run for governor and served as a Republican Party chairman.

Investors with companies he ran there sued and won a $28 million judgment against him. Amid the publicity from that, the Republican Party of Florida and presidential candidate John McCain gave to charity the thousands of dollars in donations he had made to them.

Odessa adviser accused of Facebook fraud up for bail hearing 03/21/13 [Last modified: Thursday, March 21, 2013 5:12am]
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