A Huntington Beach financial consultant and his wife are being held in the 2008 murder of a Santa Monica artist who was fleeced out of more than a half million dollars.
Santa Monica police investigators also believe others may have been involved in the complex financial scheme, but so far it is only Daniel Edward Becerril II that is being held on suspicion of murder.
Here is what is being released about the alleged, murky plot so far:
The body of Alexander Merman, a 35-year-old artist, Russian immigrant and Los Angeles school district teacher, was found in his Santa Monica condominium on March 13, 2008. He'd been stabbed multiple times.
The investigation led police to AP Financial Group, Becerril's Huntington Beach investment company, which owed Merman a quarter of a million dollars. Detectives later learned an additional $300,000 missing from Merman's accounts had been deposited into accounts held by Becerril of his AP Financial. The total taken from Merman: $550,000.
It was further discovered, police say, that AP Financial employees had stolen the house out from under another, unrelated victim, who was kicked out on the streets through foreclosure by a third party. Sale proceeds of the house later turned up in the accounts of Becerril and AP Financial, according to Santa Monica cops who believe other employees at the investment firm were involved in that scheme.
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It is unclear whether Becerril is being accused of being the person who physically stabbed Merman, but he is being held without bail on suspicion of murder, forgery, grand theft and money laundering. His wife, Sandra Becerril, is being held in lieu of $830,000 bail on forgery and grand theft counts.
The Santa Monica Police Department, which has been aided in the investigation by the Huntington Beach Police Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), is reaching out to the public for other potential victims of AP Financial Group. If that's you, contact Santa Monica Police Robbery/Homicide Detective HeeSeok Ahn at 310.458.8941.
Anonymous tips can be called into 800.782.7463 or 800.222.TIPS, or submitted online to www.wetip.com or www.lacrimestoppers.org.