Con Man Pleads Guilty, Sentenced to Five Years in Prison in Connection with Stealing Thousands of Dollars
Defendant Used Elaborate Scheme to Allegedly Target Numerous Women in Multiple States
BOSTON — A serial con man has pleaded guilty and has been sentenced to five years in State Prison in connection with stealing thousands of dollars and merchandise from a Massachusetts woman through an elaborate scam, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.
Frank Merlino, age 54, formerly of Massachusetts pleaded guilty to Identity Fraud, Larceny Under $250, Fraudulent Use of Credit Cards (2 counts), and Larceny Over $250 (2 counts). After the plea was entered, Judge Charles Hely sentenced Merlino to five years in State Prison and ordered him to pay $30,041.80 in restitution. Merlino was also sentenced to three years’ probation from and after all sentences served.
“The defendant preyed on the victim’s trust, ultimately cheating her out of thousands of dollars through a calculating and manipulative scheme,” AG Coakley said. “Crimes of this nature are inherently personal and can be devastating for the victim.”
In July 2009, Merlino established contact with a woman through an Internet dating website. Merlino assured the woman that he was interested in starting a family and shared many common interests. In pursuit of this relationship, Merlino told the woman that he was a former Navy SEAL and Harvard educated doctor with a practice in orthopedic surgery and was working on opening a health clinic. During this time, Merlino was serving a Federal sentence and had just been released to finish his sentence at a residential re-entry center in Boston under the condition that he report regularly to his probation officer and sleep on the premises.
In addition to his fabricated background, Merlino told the woman that he added her name to his checking account and life insurance policy, stressing that they were now a couple. Merlino also told the woman that he had added her name to his company’s expense account and encouraged her to make purchases on his behalf, for which the hospital would reimburse him. To further perpetuate the scheme, Merlino convinced the woman to include his name on her bank account so that she could be more easily reimbursed.
After accessing the woman’s account and personal information, Merlino opened a credit card in her name without her knowledge, and used the account information to finance several expensive purchases including a car, watch, golf clubs, computers, jewelry, and a diamond engagement ring, among other items. During the course of the scheme, Merlino ultimately persuaded the woman to turn her savings over to him, convincing her to close her money market account, worth $55,000, and give him the funds to open a shared E-Trade account. Rather than creating a shared account, Merlino made the account only accessible to him.
Within weeks, Merlino drained the woman’s bank account, took her savings and deposited them in his own bank account, and persuaded the woman to purchase several expensive items on his behalf.
Merlino fled Massachusetts shortly after the woman discovered the fraud. In September 2009, Merlino was apprehended by Federal Marshalls in South Carolina.
The victim was able to recover some of the stolen money, with restitution ordered for the remaining amount.
A Suffolk County Grand Jury returned indictments against Merlino on March 28, 2011. Merlino was arraigned on June 30, 2011, in Suffolk Superior Court at which time he pleaded not guilty and was ordered held on $50,000 cash bail. Merlino pleaded guilty on April 5, 2012, and was sentenced to five years in State Prison.
Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Adreani of AG Coakley’s Insurance & Unemployment Fraud Division prosecuted this case with assistance from the Massachusetts State Police Detective Unit assigned to the Attorney General’s Office.