Former Oklahoma City Attorney Accused of $3 Million Dollar Fraud
Tulsa, Oklahoma - Danny C. Williams, Sr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma, announced today that John Milton Merritt, 74, of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was charged in three criminal Informations in the Western District of Oklahoma, with bank fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud and uttering forged securities.
Merritt had previously been indicted on April 17, 2012, by the Federal Grand Jury in the Western District of Oklahoma for four counts of bank fraud, one count of using the forged signature of a United States District Judge on a forged court order, and seven counts of money laundering, all occurring from 2005 through 2011. On July 20, 2012, Merritt entered guilty pleas to all twelve counts admitting he had used forged federal and state district court orders to steal over $450,451 of settlement funds from children who were his clients in lawsuits involving car accidents. Merritt is currently awaiting sentencing on those charges.
The new mail and wire fraud charges allege that in 2007 Merritt defrauded Advocate Capital, Inc., in Nashville, Tennessee, that makes loans to attorneys to pay expenses arising from lawsuits. Merritt defrauded Advocate Capital by sending Advocate Capital false financial statements and income tax returns. This fraudulently caused Advocate Capital to extend a line of credit to Merritt and send funds to him by mail or interstate wire transfers that totaled $1,788,524.79.
Merritt is further alleged to have violated Federal money laundering statutes by spending the funds he had allegedly fraudulently obtained from Advocate Capital. The Information contains two forfeiture allegations requesting that Merritt, upon his conviction, be ordered to forfeit $1,182,537.11 and $605,987.68 to the United States for his gain from those alleged crimes.
The second Information charges a bank fraud scheme, alleging that from 2007 through 2011 that Merritt defrauded Quail Creek Bank, a federally insured Oklahoma City bank. Merritt defrauded Quail Creek Bank by supplying the bank with false financial statements and income tax returns which caused the bank to extend a line of credit of $800,000 to Merritt and his law firm.
Merritt is further alleged to have violated Federal money laundering statutes by spending the funds he had allegedly fraudulently obtained from the Quail Creek Bank. The Information also contains a forfeiture allegation requesting that Merritt, upon his conviction, be ordered to forfeit $805,407.14 to the United States for his gain from those alleged crimes.
The third Information charges Uttering Forged Securities, alleging that on May 6, 2011, Merritt forged the signature of another attorney on two separate $250,000 lawsuit settlement checks. Merritt then gave the checks to Quail Creek Bank for a total deposit of $500,000 into his law firm’s account.
Merritt is further alleged to have violated Federal money laundering statutes by spending the funds he had fraudulently obtained from uttering and depositing the forged securities. The Information also contains a forfeiture allegation that requests Merritt, upon his conviction, be ordered to forfeit $500,000 to the United States for his gain from those alleged crimes.
The charges result from a joint investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation. The prosecution of this case in federal court in Oklahoma City will be handled by Special Attorneys Charles M. McLoughlin and Kevin C. Leitch. The United States Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma was appointed by the Office of the Deputy Attorney General to prosecute the case following the recusal of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma.
A criminal Information is one method of charging a defendant with alleged violations of Federal law, which must be proven in a court of law beyond a reasonable doubt to overcome the defendant’s presumption of innocence.