The wife of Towson Ponzi schemer Kevin Merrill pleaded guilty Wednesday to one federal conspiracy charge, admitting she tried to hide his cash to prevent the government from taking it.

Amanda Merrill, 30, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Baltimore to conspiring to remove property and obstruct justice, a felony. She had been caught emptying cash from a safe in her husband’s $11 million vacation home on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Advertisement

A mother to two young children, she spoke softly and dabbed her eyes with a tissue.

“How do you plead?” U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett asked.

“Guilty,” she said.

Her plea brought one more conviction in the sweeping fraud and money-laundering case against her husband of nearly four years. Kevin Merrill, 54, admitted to swindling investors from as far away as Singapore in a sophisticated, six-year cheat. Federal prosecutors say he carried out one of the biggest Ponzi schemes in Maryland history. They calculated his investors lost $189 million.

Outside the courtroom, U.S. Attorney for Maryland Robert Hur called Kevin and Amanda Merrill “wealthy, privileged people who are trying to beat the system.”

Government lawyers with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission had filed restraining orders to bar her from her husband’s assets after he was arrested last year.

“When a federal judge issues an order to freeze assets, you have to obey that order,” Hur said outside. “You better heed that warning.”

She is scheduled to be sentenced in January and prosecutors are asking the judge to sentence her to a year of house arrest for interfering. In recommending house arrest, Hur said prosecutors were mindful of the couple’s 1- and 2-year-old children.

In October 2018, Amanda Merrill flew to their posh home in Naples, Florida with instructions from her jailed husband. On a recorded phone call from jail, he coached her to enter his code to the safe. Prosecutors submitted a transcript of the call to the court.

“So if you hit, if you hit, um, the zero first, does it beep at all, or is it just quiet?” Merrill asked.

“It beeps,” his wife said.

“Okay, try that and then the ‘C,’ go that direction then, try it that way." She said it wasn’t working. “F---” he said.

Amanda Merrill managed to open the safe and prosecutors say she made off with as much as $15,000 in cash. Her defense attorneys disputed the amount.

That same month, she began to redeem the points on her husband’s American Express credit card – a card frozen by the courts – to buy $26,000 in gift cards to Nordstrom, Home Depot and the beauty chain Sephora.

Advertisement

Kevin Merrill pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy and wire fraud. He’s scheduled for sentencing Thursday, and prosecutors have asked the judge to hand him 32 years.

Agents also charged his business partner, Jay Ledford, 54, of Texas and Nevada, with wire fraud, identity theft and money laundering. Ledford pleaded guilty to all three charges in June. He’s scheduled for sentencing in three weeks.

Investors believed they were buying “consumer debt portfolios,” bundles of debt on student loans, credit cards and car loans. Instead, the partners were shifting money from new investors to old investors, while skimming millions off the top.

Merrill spent his riches freely, buying a Bugatti Veyron, one of the fastest cars in the world. Prosecutors say he put down a $444,000 deposit on a handmade Richard Mille watch. They say he spent nearly $946,000 on a Louis Vuitton wardrobe and shoes.

In the past year, federal authorities identified more than 200 victims: investment groups, retirees, small-business owners, doctors, even former NBA and NHL players. Officials set about selling his treasures to repay them. They sold his big house on Circle Road in Ruxton for $2.75 million; his Bugatti Veyron for $930,000; and his 2018 Bowrider Port Cruiser for $300,000.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement