Wasn’t it just 24 hours ago we reported the sentencing (and emotional breakdown) of Ponzi-schemer Robert Moffat for defrauding customers? Well, it seems that a lot of chickens are coming home to roost this week. On Tuesday, Shawn Merriman, the self-confessed conman who cheated almost 70 investors out of at least $20 million, was gift-wrapped a sentence of 12 ½ years in the slammer. He will also have to pay $20.1 million in restitution.
U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger handed down the maximum punishment.
Since the early 1990s, Merriman told his victims they were getting annual returns of 7 to 20 percent from stock market investments. However, in 2009, the Aurora man admitted he was spending the money on himself, rather than investing it in the stock market.
Merriman lived in a million dollar home in Aurora where in 2009, federal agents seized his assets including a new motor home, a classic car collection, boats and motorcycles. The U.S. government will now have to auction off those items to try and recover money for Merriman’s victims. Authorities said his art, car and other collections are worth about $4 million, and proceeds from their sale will go to victims.
Most of his victims were fellow Mormon Church members, friends of friends, or fellow hobbyists.
“I even count my change at McDonald’s because I don’t trust any more,” Todd McCann, one of Merriman’s victims, said.
McCann described how generations of his family lost money investing with Merriman’s company, Market Street Advisors, and ended his statement saying, “Shawn, I hope you burn in hell.”
Five other victims spoke directly to Judge Marcia Krieger and Merriman during the sentencing hearing detailing how they put trust and confidence in Merriman to make financial decisions for them.
“We want to see him go away for a long time” said victim Hal Bjorklund during the morning recess. Bjorklund traveled from Montana for the hearing. “I wouldn’t miss this for the world.”
Merriman spoke for himself as well, trying to plead with the judge that his cooperation with authorities should grant him a lighter sentence. He and his attorney argued for a five-year prison term.
“I didn’t start my investment company with malicious intent,” Merriman said. “Since turning myself in, I did everything I could to maximize the return for my investors.”
Merriman has lost his wife, his home, and has been excommunicated from his position as a Mormon Church bishop.
“I know saying I’m sorry doesn’t make things right,” he said. “Each of my investors is a great person who doesn’t deserve what I did to them.”
After Merriman serves his 12 and a half year sentence, he will serve three years probation.