Attorney: Merren case won’t go to trial

Caymanian businessman Bryce Merren seems unlikely to face a criminal trial in Puerto Rico over his alleged efforts to establish a money laundering operation to cover up planned drug smuggling activities.

According to records filed with the court this week, Merren’s attorneys stated they did not anticipate going to trial on the three-count U.S. federal court indictment filed against their client “based on the weight of the evidence.”

Attorney Jennie Espada-Ocasio noted that Merren met with attorneys and his brother Randy Merren in the Puerto Rico detention facility last week. Hundreds of pages of trial evidence were left for Merren to review following the meeting.

“We are still working on getting a better offer for our client,” Ms. Espada-Ocasio wrote in court filings. “We want to meet with our client and discuss the evidence and deliberate the benefits of entering a plea in this case [to] avoid the risk of trial.”

A 15-day extension was requested so that Merren’s attorneys could file a change of plea motion with the court.

According to publicly available court records in the U.S., a probable cause affidavit filed earlier this year by Homeland Security Special Agent Harry Schmidt alleges 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.

Agent Schmidt’s probable cause affidavit states that 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.”

U.S. federal investigators revealed in the court evidence that they also had photographs and video stills of the meetings, held in August 2013, November 2013 and March 2014 in San Juan between Merren, the undercover agents and an identified associate of Merren’s.

The associate is named in publicly available court records, but the Cayman Compass is not identifying him because he has not been charged in relation to the case – as far as the Compass is aware. The newspaper later learned that the individual worked for a trucking company owned by Merren.

Certain records related to the warrant for Merren’s arrest and his financial details have been withheld from release.

According to a ruling issued by U.S. magistrate Camille Velez-Rive earlier this year, there was probable cause to believe Merren had committed an offense for which a “maximum prison term of 10 years or more” is prescribed under U.S. law.