RICHMOND, Va. — A former NFL and University of Virginia football player was convicted by a federal jury in a retrial Monday for his role in a $10 million fraud scheme.
Merrill Robertson, Jr., of Chesterfield, was previously convicted by a federal jury of fifteen offenses, including conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, five counts of mail fraud and four counts of bank fraud in August of 2017.
He was sentenced to 40 years in prison, but that conviction was overturned by the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after the lower court judge failed to question jurors about whether they read a Richmond Times-Dispatch article about the case titled “Ex-U.Va. football player’s bond revoked in fraud trial” and subtitled, “Judge calls former Chesterfield resident ‘not a truthful person.’”
In the new trial, a federal grand jury convicted Robertson of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering in connection to a fraud scheme targeting elderly individuals, former coaches, donors, alumni, and school employees.
Robertson and co-conspirator, Sherman Carl Vaughn, started Cavalier Union Investments, LLC, and Black Bull Wealth Management, LLC, according to court records.
Prosecutors said from 2009 to 2016 the Robertson and the co-conspirator solicited individuals to invest money in private investment funds that they managed, as well as investment opportunities that they proposed.
They said Robertson identified potential investors by using contacts that he had from the NFL, the University of Virginia and the Fork Union Military Academy. Vaughn focused on developing investment opportunities, according to prosecutors.
The Chesterfield man played football at L.C. Bird High School, Fork Union Military Academy, and the University of Virginia. He then played briefly for the Philadelphia Eagles in the early 2000s.
Prosecutors said Robertson and Vaughn led clients to believe they were experienced investment advisors, and that they employed other experienced investment advisors to manage their investment funds, according to court records and evidence presented at trial.
“Among other things, Robertson led investors to believe he was an experienced investment advisor, that his company was qualified to serve as a custodian of retirement accounts, that investor money was deposited into individual tax-deferred retirement accounts, and that investor money was secured by tangible cash-producing assets owned by his company,” according to a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Court documents reveal that Robertson held licenses to sell securities but was not a registered broker.
Court records show that Robertson and Vaughn fraudulently obtained more than $10 million from more than 60 investors. Prosecutors say the men spent most of the money on mortgage and car payments, school tuitions, spa visits, luxury goods, and vacations.
Robertson faces a maximum penalty of 330 years in prison when sentenced on Jan. 3, 2020.
A federal district court judge will determine the sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.