RICHMOND, Va. – A federal jury convicted a former University of Virginia football player today of his role in a $10 million fraud scheme.
According to court records and evidence presented at trial, Merrill Robertson, Jr., 36, of Chesterfield, started Cavalier Union Investments, LLC, and Black Bull Wealth management, LLC, with co-conspirator Sherman Carl Vaughn. From 2009-2016, Robertson and Vaughn solicited individuals to invest money in private investment funds that they managed, as well as distinct investment opportunities that they proposed. Robertson identified potential investors through various contacts; including contacts he developed playing football at Fork Union Military Academy, the University of Virginia, and in the National Football League, while Vaughn focused on developing investment opportunities.
“Behind every lie is a choice,” said Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Mr. Robertson lied to his friends and mentors, and many times had the opportunity to come clean and tell the truth. Instead, he chose to continue his lies and fraud, which had devastating effects on his victims. I applaud the terrific efforts of the trial team and our law enforcement partners in investigating and prosecuting this important case.”
Robertson and Vaughn led individuals to believe they were experienced investment advisors, and that they employed other experienced investment advisors to manage their investment funds. For example, Vaughn represented that he was a long-time investor and philanthropist with extensive experience in business and real estate. In fact, Vaughn filed for personal bankruptcy four times, including twice during the time he was soliciting investors for Cavalier.
“There are consequences for people's choices,” said Adam S. Lee, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Field Office. “Today Mr. Robertson was convicted for his scheme of manipulating friends and associates into trusting him with their savings and ultimately using it for his personal gain. I would like to commend the investigative team and the United States Attorney's Office for their dedication to bring justice to the victims associated with this case.”
As a result of this conspiracy, Robertson and Vaughn fraudulently obtained more than $10 million from over 50 investors, spending much of the money on their own personal living expenses, including mortgage and car payments, school tuitions, spa visits, restaurants, department stores, and vacations.
“The longevity and scope of Mr. Robertson’s scheme to defraud investors is simply astonishing,” said Kimberly Lappin, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Washington D.C. Field Office. “Through the joint efforts of IRS Criminal Investigation and our law enforcement partners, Mr. Robertson has been brought to justice and convicted by a jury of his peers. Today’s verdict is a reminder that IRS-CI will remain vigilant in our investigation of these schemes in order to combat this type of criminal conduct.”
“This case is merely the latest in a long tradition of Postal Inspectors relentlessly pursuing anyone who misuses the nation's mail system to commit fraud and take advantage of the American public.” said Inspector in Charge Robert Wemyss. “I'm proud of the work done by all the agents involved in this investigation, and look forward to the continued efforts of the Richmond Securities Fraud Task Force.”
Robertson was convicted of mail fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering. He faces a maximum penalty of 330 years in prison when sentenced on December 6. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Kimberly Lappin, Special Agent in Charge, Washington, D.C. Field Office, IRS-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Adam S. Lee, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Field Office, and Robert B. Wemyss, Inspector in Charge of the Washington Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, made the announcement after U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney, Jr., accepted the verdict. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Katherine Lee Martin and Stephen E. Anthony are prosecuting the case.
The Virginia State Corporation Commission Division of Securities and Retail Franchising assisted with the investigation.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information is located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 3:16-cr-133.