Towson man who led $550M Ponzi scheme sentenced to 22 years

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A Bugatti Veyron allegedly purchased by Merrill using defrauded funds from investors. Photo courtesy of U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland.

The man at the center of an infamous Ponzi scheme that drew more than half a billion dollars was sentenced Thursday to 22 years in prison.

The sentence for Kevin Merrill, handed down by U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett, was 10 years short of what federal prosecutors were reportedly seeking, but significantly harsher than most prison sentences for white-collar crimes. He was also ordered to pay nearly $190 million in restitution.

“As a result of this scheme, a number of victims were devastated, losing their life savings,” U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur said in a statement. “This sentence sends a strong message that federal prosecutors, federal agents, and our SEC partners will continue to work together to investigate and prosecute those who perpetrate these kind[s] of fraud schemes for their personal gain—leaving a wave of victims in their wake.”

Merrill, 54, worked with counterparts in Nevada and Texas to defraud hundreds of investors of hundreds of millions between 2013 and 2018 that they then spent on themselves.

They tricked investors into paying them for what their victims thought was an investment in consumer debt portfolios, shrouding the operation in a web of more than 30 shell companies. In reality, Merrill and company were just paying back other “investors” with the new money they were receiving, and skimming millions off the top to buy cars, homes, boats, jewelry, luxury apparel and more.

The feds seized Merrill’s six homes last year, including one on Circle Road in Ruxton. He also had a Bugatti Beyron, a pair of Rolls Royces, a collection of Swiss watches, a yacht and more.

His wife, 30-year-old Amanda Merrill, pleaded guilty yesterday to a federal charge of conspiracy to remove property to prevent seizure, obstruct justice and disobey court orders. She admitted she helped hide cash for her husband by visiting one of his houses in Naples, Florida, and retrieving money from a safe and bringing it back to Towson.

Her sentencing is set for Jan. 22, 2020. Prosecutors plan to recommend a year of home monitoring with work release, plus restitution.

Cameron Jezierski, who was entrusted with luring more victims into the Ponzi scheme, and Jay Ledford, Kevin Merrill’s business partner, have already pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering.

Both are facing decades in prison. Jezierski is due for sentencing next month, while Ledford’s hearing is set for Oct. 29.

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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in CityLab, Slate, Baltimore City Paper, DCist and elsewhere.
Ethan McLeod
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