BULLETIN: Prosecutors Ask Judge Not To Release Money To TelexFree Figure James Merrill

James Merrill

James Merrill

BULLETIN: Federal prosecutors handling the criminal case against TelexFree figure and alleged co-owner James Merrill have asked a judge not to release $4 million Merrill says he needs to pay for his criminal defense.

On July 1, Merrill asked for an evidentiary hearing aimed ultimately at securing “an order returning the identified funds” to him.

TelexFree might be the largest MLM HYIP pyramid- and Ponzi scheme in U.S. history, based on global reach, dollar volume and the number of affected recruits. Regulators have called it a cross-border fraud that gathered more than $1.2 billion.

Prosecutors contended today that the “funds Merrill asks the Court to release, however, are investor funds — money victims gave to TelexFree during the course of the alleged fraud.”

The funds were seized via warrants on April 24. Thirty-seven TelexFree-related seizure warrants were applied for that day, after an undercover probe led by Homeland Security Investigations, an arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. TelexFree had declared bankruptcy 11 days earlier. At least five of the seizure warrants were targeted at Merrill accounts holding more than $4.18 million, according to court filings.

In cases involving assets alleged to be forfeitable, prosecutors typically argue that the assets should be preserved until a trial occurs and a verdict on the alleged underlying crime that led to the seizures is returned. If such assets are returned prior to trial, they will be dissipated and thus lost to victims in the event of a finding of guilt.

Beyond that, prosecutors contended, Merrill is not automatically entitled to an evidentiary hearing on the release of the funds and has not made a threshold showing that he lacks access to other funds to pay for his defense.

“[Merrill] fails to submit any evidence in support of his bald assertion that the United States cannot establish probable cause as to forfeitability of the seized assets, and such failure is fatal to his request for a hearing,” prosecutors argued to U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Hillman of the District of Massachusetts.

Boston-based attorney Robert M. Goldstein is defending Merrill.

“[T]he government cannot establish probable cause to believe that the assets in dispute are traceable or otherwise sufficiently related to the crime charged in the criminal complaint,” Goldstein argued on July 1.

Prosecutors asserted today that probable cause to seize the funds already had been established and that Merrill was trying to get a “sneak preview” at the criminal case against him. Merrill currently faces a single charge of wire-fraud conspiracy brought via criminal complaint in May.

A grand jury has been impaneled, which means that other criminal charges are possible. Some TelexFree members have alleged that the company was a racketeering enterprise.

Merrill’s co-defendant in the existing criminal case charging wire-fraud conspiracy is alleged TelexFree co-owner Carlos Wanzeler, described by prosecutors as  an international fugitive who first ducked out of the United States through Canada on April 15 and ultimately fled to Brazil.  April 15 was the date of a federal raid on TelexFree’s office in Marlborough, Mass.

Prosecutors from the office of U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz of the District of Massachusetts are handling the criminal cases against Merrill and Wanzeler.

NOTE: Our thanks to the ASD Updates Blog.

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2 Responses to “BULLETIN: Prosecutors Ask Judge Not To Release Money To TelexFree Figure James Merrill”

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