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Crime

Alexander Merman, Russian-born Artist Stabbed to Death in Santa Monica, Was Victim of Murder-for-Profit Scheme, Police Say

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Fri, Mar 2, 2012 at 5:53 PM

click to enlarge A piece by Merman titled "Reflection." - ART-EXCHANGE.COM
  • Art-Exchange.com
  • A piece by Merman titled "Reflection."
Updated at bottom: police believe there may be more victims out there. First posted at 10:54 a.m. on Mar. 2.

Police believe they have identified the man responsible for the death of Alexander Merman, the Russian-born artist who was found stabbed to death inside his apartment in Santa Monica in 2008. The killer, police say, is a Huntington Beach financial adviser turned hit-man who killed the artist in murder-for-profit scheme.

SMPD will hold a press conference later today to announce details of the case. The charges against Daniel Becerril II, owner of AP Financial Group, Inc., are said to include homicide, money laundering, grand theft and forgery.

The LA Times reports that Becerril was banned from the financial industry last month after an investigation Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. He was accused of embezzling the inheritance of a client's daughter. (AP Financial Group has a single Yelp review that reads, "Best advise [sic]................do not go there!!!! Save yourself, your money and everything else you can think of.")

Merman was born in Moscow; he immigrated to Los Angeles in 1985 and studied Illustration at Otis College of Art and Design. His body was discovered by after his mother called the building manager, concerned that she had not heard from her son in days. The murder caused a stir because it came just days after another killing, that of 21-year-old Julianna Redding, in the typically tranquil seaside city.

Updated 5:45pm Mar. 2

Police announced today that Merman was owed a quarter of a million dollars by Becerril, his financial adviser; he discovered the 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 say.

Daniel Becerril is being held without bail in Santa Monica Jail. His wife, Sandra Becerril was also taken into custody; she is being held on $830,000 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.

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 HeeSeok Ahn of the Santa Monica Police Department at 310-458-8941.

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