2 Fla. Men Convicted Of Operating $2 Million Center City Loan Fraud

Posted: July 19, 1997

Two Florida men were convicted yesterday of operating a phony Center City finance company that promised people help obtaining loans and pocketed $2 million in ``advance fees,'' but never delivered for its customers.

A U.S. District Court jury in Philadelphia deliberated about four hours before convicting Jerrell A. Breslin and Leslie S. Mersky of conspiracy, wire fraud, and other offenses in the operation of Turnbull & Sons Ltd.

Breslin, 44, of Miami, and Mersky, 51, of Aventura, north of Miami, appeared shocked at the verdict, shaking their heads and staring at the floor. Breslin, who had acted as his own attorney during the complex six-week trial, heaved deep sighs and choked back sobs, especially after prosecutors moved to revoke bail.

``I'm in shock, I'm completely in shock,'' Breslin told U.S. District Judge Raymond J. Broderick. ``I can't believe this, and I'm not prepared to move forward.''

Breslin said he needed at least the weekend to arrange for surety to back additional bail.

But after Assistant U.S. Attorney Roberta Benjamin presented evidence that Breslin had threatened a government witness, Broderick ordered both men taken into custody immediately. Broderick said he would allow them to present evidence later to support requests for release on bail.

Defense lawyers said in court that they planned to challenge the verdict. Breslin and Mersky each face prison terms of seven to nine years without parole, prosecutors said.

With its prestigious-sounding name, tony address off Rittenhouse Square, and purported financial connections around the world, Turnbull & Sons Ltd. marketed itself during the early 1990s to businesses and individuals who needed venture capital or were having trouble getting credit.

In exchange for an ``advance fee'' of $10,000 to $300,000, Turnbull promised to provide collateral to help customers get multimillion-dollar loans from financial institutions worldwide.

Once the fees were paid, prosecutors alleged, Breslin, Mersky and their associates became unavailable to their customers. The indictment alleged that Turnbull was a sham with no assets other than the fees it was paid and with no ability to obtain loans.

The chief evidence against the pair came from three former Turnbull associates - Center City lawyer Morris L. Chucas, 63; West Chester businessman Peter D. Bistrian, 40; and Jaime P. Young, 39, of Lake Oswego, Ore. - two of whom testified during the trial. The three associates had pleaded guilty to conspiracy and fraud charges.

The defense blamed Turnbull's problems on Chucas, Bistrian and Young, contending that they lied to obtain favorable treatment from prosecutors. Neither Breslin nor Mersky testified in his own defense.

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