Judge allows Merrill pre-trial release; Charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Author:Eckelbecker, Lisa

Byline: Lisa Eckelbecker

WORCESTER -- A federal judge has cleared TelexFree co-owner James M. Merrill for pre-trial release, revoking a judges's order that had kept the Ashland man in custody on a charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Mr. Merrill must post bond of $900,000 secured by his house, a Sutton home owned by his sister and her family, and a friend's home in East Falmouth, and he must meet other conditions, U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Hillman wrote in an order Tuesday.

Prosecutors had argued that TelexFree Inc. of Marlboro was an international pyramid scheme with money stashed in overseas accounts, and that Mr. Merrill could secure funds and assistance to flee. But prosecutors' evidence was not strong enough to counter the factors that could keep Mr. Merrill here, Mr. Hillman wrote in a 15-page order.

The judge wrote that, "given Merrill's strong family and community ties and the inability of the government to more fully substantiate its contention that Merrill has the international funds and contacts that would allow him to successfully flee the country, this court finds that Merrill should be released,'' subject to conditions.

Those conditions include home confinement. Under the terms of the order, Mr. Merrill also must wear an electronic monitoring device, and the Merrill family must surrender its passports. Mr. Merrill is to be placed in the custody of his wife, Kristen Merrill.

The case against Mr. Merrill is part of a broader investigation into TelexFree, which sold services that...

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