Bryce Merren pleads guilty in drug case

Caymanian businessman Bryce Gilroy Merren pleaded guilty Thursday to one of three charges filed against him in U.S. federal court, according to officials in the U.S. Attorney’s Office.  

Assistant U.S. Attorney Dennise Longo-Quinones confirmed that Merren had appeared as scheduled in U.S. district court in Puerto Rico on Thursday morning and agreed to a plea arrangement.  

The federal prosecutor said Merren pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute narcotics. The other two counts against him – attempting to sell, distribute or dispense cocaine and money laundering – were held in abeyance until his sentencing date.  

Ms. Longo-Quinones said the other two counts in the federal court indictment would be dropped once Merren was sentenced, if all terms of the plea agreement were followed. A date for his sentencing has not been set.  

The Cayman Compass was not privy to any other terms of the plea deal, including whether Merren would have to remain in Puerto Rican lockup until his sentencing date, but Ms. Longo-Quinones said that information should be released to the public Friday.  

At an arraignment in April, Merren pleaded not guilty to three counts, including conspiracy and attempt to possess and distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine, as well as money laundering in connection with an alleged drug shipment attempt. 

Merren was arrested in March following a criminal complaint made in U.S. court by Homeland Security investigators. The complaint stated that the Cayman Islands businessman 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 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 Department of Homeland Security alleges that confidential information received in July 2013 stated that 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.” 

In August, Merren’s Puerto Rico-based lawyer, Jennie Mariel Espada, indicated that there was little chance of the case against her client proceeding to trial.  

“Certainly this attorney can categorically state we will not recommend trial to this client based on the weight of the evidence, amongst other reasons,” read a motion filed earlier in the case by Ms. Espada.  

Merren has been in custody either in Georgia or in Puerto Rico since his arrest in March.  

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