Merren moved, will still face PR court

A Cayman Islands businessman charged in a suspected money laundering operation set up to cover drug smuggling activities is still expected to face trial in Puerto Rico later this year, despite apparently having been moved from the U.S. territory for the time being.

According to authorities with the U.S. district court in Puerto Rico, the charges against Bryce Gilroy Merren remain pending before the district.

“Decisions regarding the transfer and movement of federal inmates are sensitive matters of security and federal resources management by the US Marshal Service and the Bureau of Prisons,” a statement from the U.S. attorneys office indicated.

The US Marshals records had Merren being “released” from federal prison on June 12, but Merren’s family confirmed he was still in lock up at another facility in the continental U.S. Specifics of Merren’s exact location are not being revealed for security reasons.

A trial date of Aug. 15, 2014 has been set for the case by U.S. District Court Judge Carmen Consuelo Cerezo.

At his April arraignment hearing in the U.S. court for the territory of Puerto Rico, Merren entered a not guilty plea to all three counts of conspiracy and attempt to possess and distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine, as well as money laundering.

U.S. Homeland Security investigators in March arrested Merren over what court records allege was an attempt to set up a money laundering operation to cover up planned drug smuggling activities.

A probable cause affidavit alleged that Merren met at different times with two undercover federal agents who posed as accomplices in setting up a drug smuggling operation in Puerto Rico. The records allege that Merren intended to use certain business interests in the Cayman Islands and the southern Caribbean island of Curacao to help launder the money.

If a plea deal is made, the court has ordered those negotiations to conclude prior to July 21 and make motions before the court to that effect by July 30.

As of Friday, no one else had been charged in relation to Merren’s case, although the name of one other associate has surfaced in publicly available court records in connection with the U.S. authorities’ undercover investigation. That man is an employee of Merren’s trucking company.

According to the homeland security agent’s probable cause affidavit, U.S. federal investigators in San Juan, Puerto Rico, received confidential information in July 2013 that Merren was “seeking to purchase approximately 3,000 kilograms of cocaine and establish a U.S. bank account in order to deposit drug proceeds and make an initial payment for the transportation of narcotics.”

The records did not state from where the alleged narcotics were to be transported.