Court transcripts: ‘Other persons’ assisted in Merren drug conspiracy

Unidentified individuals, some of whom are known to a U.S. federal grand jury, were part of a drug transshipment conspiracy involving Caymanian businessman Gilroy Bryce Merren, federal court transcripts released last week reveal.

Merren, who is serving a nine-year sentence, pleaded guilty in December 2014 to one count of conspiring to transport cocaine. Unknown to Merren at the time, two of the people involved in the drug scheme were undercover agents with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Transcripts of the 2014 plea hearing were released by the U.S. District Court of Puerto Rico on Dec. 22, 2016:

“Gilroy Bryce Merren provided a second undercover agent his personal identifying information to open a bank account into which he wire-transferred US$200,000 as an initial deposit for the payment of the transportation costs for the delivery and sea-transfer of the 1,000 kilograms of cocaine.

“In furtherance of this conspiracy, Gilroy Bryce Merren also coordinated and procured the assistance of other persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury, including individuals who mailed packages to the undercover agent in furtherance of the drug transaction and who provided to their personal identifying information to open the bank account.”

It was agreed in the plea deal that Merren would be “held accountable” for at least 50 kilograms to 150 kg of the cocaine.

During a Dec. 11, 2014 change of plea hearing, Magistrate Judge Bruce J. McGiverin questioned U.S. attorneys regarding who was supposed to have been involved in this drug conspiracy.

Judge McGiverin: “Just to be clear, included in the facts are, besides the defendant and undercover law enforcement or confidential sources, there are other persons involved in this – there are facts of other persons involved in this conspiracy … that he conspired with that are not law enforcement?”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Denise Longo Quinones: “That’s correct, your honor. There were some photographs of the communications between the defendant and other individuals that were coordinating the sea-transfer [of the drugs].”

Judge: “OK. And there’s reference of the people opening bank accounts and providing information …. personal information?”

Assistant U.S. attorney: “That’s correct, your honor.”

None of the other alleged conspirators was identified in the transcript. Earlier court records produced after Merren’s March 2014 arrest by federal agents say he had made statements to Homeland Security agents indicating he had money laundering businesses in the Cayman Islands and in Curacao that could assist in the conspiracy scheme. Those businesses have never been identified in court records.

Further court records released from Merren’s June 2015 sentencing hearing indicate that he earned US$12,500 monthly, before his arrest, as a director of a local food wholesale and import company.

During his sentencing hearing, Merren apologized to his family, friends and loved ones for “dishonoring their name and shaming them in this way.”

“For the rest of my life, I’ll probably be stared at, pointed out in the crowd and [be] the subject of whispered conversations,” he said during the June 2015 sentencing hearing. “That in itself will be a sentence for me for the rest of my life.”

A year later, Merren filed a request to appeal his nine-year sentence on the grounds of ineffective defense counsel. Federal prosecutors have objected to the request.

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