The criminal investigation involving a foiled cocaine shipment operation in Puerto Rico will apparently not end with the guilty plea and subsequent sentencing of a Cayman Islands businessman, U.S. federal court records released last week indicated.
Bryce Merren pleaded guilty on Dec. 11 to “knowingly and intentionally combine, conspire and agree [with] other persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury, to commit an offense….that is, to knowingly and intentionally possess with intent to distribute a mixture or substance in excess of five kilograms [of cocaine].” The charge carries a minimum 10-year prison sentence, but federal prosecutors indicated it will be up to a judge to decide whether Merren’s sentence will be reduced because of his plea arrangement with the U.S. government.
The charge of conspiracy would tend to indicate there was at least one other person involved in Merren’s alleged activities. However, at this stage, nothing in publicly available court records has revealed that anyone else has been charged
A sentencing date for Merren had not been set as of press time.
Records from the U.S. District Court in Puerto Rico indicate that Merren, who was arrested there in March on allegations that he was attempting to set up a money laundering operation to cover for planned cocaine shipments, revealed that at least one other man – an employee at his Cayman Islands trucking business – was involved in negotiations for cocaine shipments with two undercover federal agents. However, that man has not been charged as far as the Cayman Compass is aware.
In motions filed on Dec. 17, U.S. attorneys asked that certain records related to Merren’s plea in the case be restricted, with access only given to selected parties.
“The [United States] is filing the pleading with the requested level of restriction because [it]…is necessary to protect the confidentiality of the matters detailed in the pleading and of the law enforcement activities affected by the pleading,” the motion to restrict access states. The motion was not immediately granted and it was left open for Merren’s lawyers to object to it, if they wished.
In the initial probable cause affidavit filed just after Merren’s March 2014 arrest, U.S. Homeland Security agents provided details of several meetings held in Puerto Rico between Mr. Merren, his associate and two undercover federal agents.
In one of those meetings, on Nov. 6, 2013, between Mr. Merren and the two undercover agents, court records stated that details of the alleged money laundering scheme were discussed.
“[Mr.] Merren explained to [undercover agent #2] that he has legitimate businesses in the Cayman Islands and Curacao where he receives funds from customers from all over the world that conduct credit card transactions utilizing his businesses’ merchant machines in order to convert foreign currency into U.S. currency,” the probable cause affidavit states. “[Mr.] Merren charges a percentage for the exchange and then wire transfers the bulk amount of the currency back to its correspondent owner.
“[Mr.] Merren also prepares purchase receipts for the customers in order to make it seem as if they are purchasing or paying for services,” the court records stated.
According to details of the plea agreement, charges filed against Merren over the alleged money laundering will fall away once his guilty plea is entered.
Royal Cayman Islands Police have refused to comment regarding any aspect of the Puerto Rican investigation.