Three Men Indicted in $345 Million Consumer Debt Ponzi Scheme

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ArrestedOn September 19, a federal grand jury indicted three men on charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, identity theft and money laundering in connection with a $345 million ponzi scheme, tracing back to January 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Simultaneously, the SEC obtained a court order to shut down the ponzi scheme allegedly created by these men, Kevin B. Merrill, 53, Jay B. Ledford, 54, and Cameron Jezierski, 28. The SEC complaint alleged that these men attracted investors to their scheme by promising sizable profits from the purchase and resale of consumer debt portfolios. However, the defendants were allegedly fabricating documents and forging signatures in a complex scheme to entice investors and perpetuate the fraud.

The SEC complaint alleges that Merrill and Ledford stole at least $85 million from investors to maintain lavish lifestyles, spending millions of dollars on luxury items, including $10.2 million on at least 25 cars, $330,000 for a 7-carat diamond ring, $168,000 for a 23-carat diamond bracelet, millions of dollars on luxury homes, and $100,000 to a private fitness club.

According to a story from WBAL TV, a Baltimore-area NBC news affiliate, SEC employee Stephanie Avakian said that from one investor’s $500,000 investment, “Merrill allegedly used [it] for a $400,000 payment for a 2014 Bugatti sports car, made payments to prior investors and repaid $20,000 of his own credit card debt.”

According to the WBAL TV story, a related complaint filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, alleges that the investors included small business owners, restaurateurs, construction contractors, retirees, doctors, lawyers, accountants, bankers, talent agents, professional athletes and financial advisers in Maryland, Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia, Las Vegas, Texas and elsewhere.

“Most of these investors are just learning that they have been victimized,” said U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur. “The effects of this kind of fraud can be devastating. We urge anyone who thinks they may be a victim to contact the FBI at MerrillLedford@fbi.gov.”

If convicted on the criminal charges, Merrill and Ledford could face up to 262 years in prison and Jazierski could face up to 120 years in prison.

Last modified: April 20, 2019
Todd Stone


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