PUBLIC SAFETY FACILITY — A financial advisor from Huntington Beach will stand trial for the 2008 murder of Alexander Merman, the Russian-born artist who was found stabbed to death inside his condo in Santa Monica, police said Wednesday.

Daniel Becerril, 35, was held to answer on the murder charge on Oct. 9 following a six-day preliminary hearing put on by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, police said.

In addition, Becerril, who plead not guilty, will stand trial on an additional 29 charges relating to grand theft, fraud and money laundering relating to Merman and others.

The investigation began in March of 2008, when the Santa Monica Police Department discovered Merman’s body in his condo at 520 Montana Ave.

During the course of the investigation, which lasted four years, detectives learned that Becerril was the owner of a company called AP Financial Group and that Merman was one of several victims of Becerril, who allegedly used the company to commit various fraudulent crimes involving real estate and investment fraud, said SMPD Sgt. Richard Lewis.

Merman was owed a quarter of a million dollars by Becerril, police said. He discovered that fact shortly before his death. An additional $300,000 was also stolen from Merman’s investment accounts and deposited into Becerril’s personal account, police said at the time of Becerril’s arrest.

Becerril remains in the custody of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and is being held on $2.4 million bail.

During the course of the investigation another fraud allegedly committed by AP Financial Group involving the unlawful sale of a home unbeknownst to the owner was also uncovered by investigators.

Becerill’s next scheduled court date is Oct. 23, according to the sheriff’s inmate information website.

Police believe there may be more victims out there; anyone who has been the victim of fraud, or suspects they may have been victimized by AP Financial Group, is asked to contact Detective Hee Seok Ahn of the SMPD at (310) 458-8452.

 

kevinh@smdp.com

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