PICO BLVD — Santa Monica police and other law enforcement groups arrested a suspect in the 2008 murder of Santa Monica resident Alexander Merman, authorities announced Friday.
Daniel Edward Becerril II, 35, was arrested in Orange County Thursday by members of the Santa Monica Police Department in coordination with the Huntington Beach Police Department and United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
He is being held without bail in Santa Monica Jail on suspicion of one count of murder, as well as six counts of grand theft and multiple counts of forgery and money laundering related to approximately $700,000 in thefts.
His wife, Sandra Becerril, 33, was also arrested for multiple counts of forgery and grand theft, and is being held on $830,000 bail.
Arrests of additional codefendants are currently being made by the Santa Monica Police Department, according to a department press release.
Merman was stabbed to death in his home on 520 Montana Ave. in spring of 2008 after he inquired over approximately $550,000 Becerril either owed Merman or had taken from Merman’s investment accounts through his company AP Financial Group.
“Merman thought he was making an investment,” said Police Chief Tim Jackman at a press conference Friday morning. “He began to become suspicious and began making inquiries and after a number of months of being unsuccessful in finding out what happened to his money is when we believe the murder took place.”
Police believe that Merman, an elementary school teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District, was murdered for financial gain, Jackman said.
Merman’s mother, Sophia Merman, said that she was pleased to hear that police broke the case surrounding her son’s death.
“(A son) lives in your soul,” Merman said. “This is something to make fair what happened to him.”
Merman’s murder may be only the tip of the iceberg in a larger financial scandal involving Becerril and AP Financial Group, Jackman said.
Over the course of the investigation, SMPD detectives found evidence of a conspiracy involving employees of AP Financial in which an unrelated victim’s house was literally stolen out from under her.
The victim was unaware of the fraud until the new owner of her house defaulted on the loan and she was evicted.
Investigators still do not know the extent of the losses, but estimate that millions could be involved in what Jackman described as a “broad, deep fraud.”
“Now the real work will begin on how deep the fraud goes,” he said.
Anyone with information was urged to call Detective HeeSeok Ahn, (310)
458-8941, or WeTip at (800) 78-CRIME.
The press conference marked another key event in Santa Monica — Jackman’s retirement.
Friday marked the last day in Jackman’s 6-year tenure with the Santa Monica Police Department. He will go on to seek a doctorate.
Mayor Richard Bloom congratulated Jackman on both the success of his team in making an arrest in the four-year-old murder and for his performance as Santa Monica’s chief.
“It is in no small part due to his leadership that Santa Monica has only one unsolved murder case,” Bloom said, and noted that serious crime had gone down 9 percent in the last year.
Deputy Chief Al Venegas will take over as interim chief until the city manager selects a replacement.