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News, Santa Monica, Courts

2008 Montana Avenue Murder Suspect Sentenced To 15 Years Prison

Huntington Beach resident Daniel Becerril II.
Courtesy of SMPD
Huntington Beach resident Daniel Becerril II.

Posted Jul. 23, 2014, 6:51 pm

Brenton Garen / Editor-in-Chief

A Huntington Beach financial consultant was sentenced on Wednesday to 15 years in prison for murdering elementary school teacher Alexander Merman in his apartment in the 500 block of Montana Avenue in 2008 after Merman had uncovered a complex fraud scheme.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Sam Ohta also ordered Daniel Gilbert Becerril II of Huntington Beach to pay about $400,000 in restitution.

Becerril pleaded no contest to one count each of voluntary manslaughter and money laundering and five theft counts in the midst of his trial last week.

The defendant owned a company in Huntington Beach and orchestrated a complex theft and money-laundering scheme that defrauded Merman, a Russian-born Los Angeles elementary school teacher. A second individual was victimized through a real estate scam, prosecutors said.

Becerril stole about $315,000 in inherited annuity funds from Merman after the 35-year-old victim loaned the defendant $250,000 to prop up his ailing business, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Becerril then transferred the stolen funds among several bank accounts to hide the money.

On March 19, 2008, Merman was found stabbed to death inside his apartment in the 500 block of Montana Avenue. He died as a result of multiple stab wounds.

SMPD Sgt. Rudy Camarena said the case initially had no leads, but an intensive investigation by SMPD detectives led them to Becerril who owed Merman more than $550,000.

“The complex investigation revealed Becerril as the head of AP Financial Group in Orange County which was found to be involved in numerous cases of fraud and theft,” Camarena said. “The estimated losses to the victims were in the millions, mostly through pyramid schemes, retirement scams, and mortgage fraud.”

Merman and Becerril were friends and most of the money involved was loaned to Becerril by Merman to help him with his business, Camarena said.

“Becerril promised to pay Merman back but never did,” Camarena said. “When Merman demanded repayment he uncovered Becerril’s scheme. Merman was killed shortly thereafter.”

Camarena said evidence which led to Becerril’s arrest by SMPD Robbery/Homicide Detectives on March 1, 2012 was abstracted from volumes of financial, cellular phone, computer and internet records.

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Jul. 24, 2014, 10:02:59 am

John El-Amin said...

15 years for intentionall taking a life for financial gain ?? So by 2029 or less, Mr. Becerill will walk as a free man? That does not sound like justice for a life taken. How could such a plea be offered, entered and accepted ?

Jul. 24, 2014, 10:23:33 am

Sharon said...

I agree with you John. And, this clearly was a premeditated murder and he committed theft and fraud. He should have been sentenced to at least life in jail.

Jul. 24, 2014, 10:50:09 am

ted said...

I agree the sentence seems light. It would seem that they only had circumstantial evidence, so they could only convict on a lesser charge. The same rules protect me from being railroaded, so I can't be too upset.

Jul. 26, 2014, 8:39:03 am

Chris said...

He plead guilty to manslaughter. Either they didn't feel they had a strong enough case or they wanted to spare the family the ordeal of a trial. Unfortunate in either event because this really looks like first degree murder in furtherance of other crimes (and a stabbing death marks the killer as a sociopath IMO). Becerill is getting off light here and I wouldn't be shocked if he was in the news again some day for another crime.

Aug. 16, 2014, 2:51:17 pm

Norm said...

Our justice system let the Merman family down. 15 years for stealing over $550,000 from Merman. Then when he wanted his money back, he was Hacked to death!!! This murderer will be out in probably 7 years. No justice here.

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