Do you dream of lounging poolside in a covered veranda? When dining, shouldn’t you be among marble columns? Don’t you deserve a five-car garage with an apartment for the au pair?
Well, the mansions of Towson fraudster Kevin B. Merrill have hit the market. For sale are his six-bedroom Ruxton colonial, his woodsy estate in Owings Mills, even his posh, $11 million getaway on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Don’t reach for the checkbook just yet. Many are already under contract.
“These properties are just highly in demand,” said Lynn Butler, attorney for the court-appointed team behind the sales. “We hopefully will have everything under contract by the end of the summer.”
U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett has cleared the way for the first of the houses to be sold. This month, the judge approved an offer for 1848 Circle Road, a Ruxton mansion of 7,400 square feet featuring Italian marble, a bridal staircase and four fireplaces. The cash offer: $2.75 million.
Also, the judge signed off on $300,000 for the convicted businessman’s boat, a 2018 Formula 350 Crossover Bowrider Port Cruiser. Next up, Merrill’s Bugatti and other exotic sports cars, his fine wine, comic book collection and luxury Swiss watches.
A court-appointed team is working to sell the treasures to repay those cheated out of $394 million over five years by Merrill and his Texan business partner, Jay Ledford. The two men swindled investors around the country in an elaborate Ponzi scheme, duping as many as 230 people, federal prosecutors say.
In May, Merrill, 54, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and wire fraud. He faces as much as 40 years in prison at his scheduled sentencing in October. Ledford, 55, pleaded guilty one month later to wire-fraud conspiracy, identity theft and money laundering. He faces 32 years in October, too.
Dallas, Texas-based Heritage Auctions has been tapped to sell his comic book collection featuring rare issues like Superman No. 6, Avengers No. 3 and Batman No. 5. The collection could be worth $200,000, Butler said.
Merrill’s fleet of about 20 exotic sports cars — Rolls Royce, Bugatti, Lamborghini — are being trucked to luxury dealership Prestige Imports in Miami. His Bugatti Veyron could fetch $950,000. Under the agreement, Prestige stands to collect 5 percent of each sale.
The court’s legal team has billed about $1 million for its work since September. These attorneys and investigators have recovered more than $14 million to dole out to victims. That’s not including the houses and cars, Butler said.
“The gross recovery could be above $50 million, above $60 million,” he said. “This looks to have a significant return to the people who were actually harmed.”
Merrill admitted selling investors phantom “consumer debt portfolios," bundles of debt on student loans, credit cards and car loans. Prosecutors said he funneled money from new investors to older investors as fake profits. They called it one of the largest Ponzi schemes in Maryland history.
The court has appointed Sotheby’s International Realty to sell Merrill’s homes, including the Florida vacation house. Sotheby’s stands to make $330,000 from that sale alone.
Earlier this month, the judge approved an offer of $11 million for the retreat at 1055 Spyglass Lane in Naples, Fla., a 7,600-square-foot house with a terrace, spa and two pools. Here, the prospective buyers want the furniture for another $100,000.
One week later, the judge received a $1.4 million offer for a hilltop rehab project at 1718 Greenspring Valley Road, in the heart of Maryland’s horse country. As with other offers, a letter was sent out to notify Merrill, who now takes his mail in more modest accommodations at the Harford County jail.