Merren to change plea in US court

Attorneys for Cayman Islands businessman Bryce Merren will seek to change his earlier plea of “not guilty” to charges that he attempted to set up a money laundering operation to cover up drug smuggling, according to records filed in U.S. district court.

The motion seeking a change of plea hearing was filed on Tuesday by Merren’s lawyer, Jennie Espada, in the district of Puerto Rico, an unincorporated territory of the U.S.

At arraignment in April, Merren pleaded not guilty to three counts of conspiracy and attempt to possess and distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine, as well as money laundering in connection with the alleged drug shipment attempt.

Merren was arrested in March following a criminal complaint made in U.S. court by American Homeland Security investigators. The complaint stated the Cayman Islands man had met on several occasions with undercover agents to set up a drug smuggling operation between the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

Federal court records allege Merren told undercover agents that he would use businesses located in the Cayman Islands and elsewhere in the Caribbean to launder money made from cocaine sales.

A probable cause affidavit by one of the undercover agents of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security alleges that confidential information received in July 2013 stated Merren sought “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 change of plea was expected following statements by Ms. Espada in September and October that Merren’s case likely wouldn’t go to trial.

An earlier trial date of Oct. 10 in the case has been vacated. No date had been set for the change of plea hearing at press time.

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