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Originally published Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 3:31 PM

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Meridian’s Berg wants 18-year fraud sentence overturned

Frederick Darren Berg is asking a federal judge to overturn his 18-year sentence for defrauding investors of more than $100 million in a Ponzi scheme at Meridian Mortgage, claiming court-appointed attorneys didn’t put up an adequate defense.

By Seattle Times business staff

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Twelve months after he was sentenced to 18 years in prison for defrauding investors, Meridian Mortgage founder Frederick Darren Berg is asking a federal judge to overturn his decision on the grounds that Berg’s court-appointed attorneys didn’t put up an adequate defense.

He also claims the original indictment should be thrown out because it was based on “outrageous government conduct” in the form of coordination between prosecutors and the court-appointed trustee in the bankruptcy of 10 Meridian investor funds.

Hundreds of investors lost at least $100 million in Berg’s Ponzi scheme, while he spent tens of millions on his lavish lifestyle and poured an estimated $45 million into creating a luxury-bus company.

Berg pleaded guilty in August 2011, though he insisted at the sentencing that Meridian only became a Ponzi scheme in 2008, not a half-dozen years earlier as prosecutors alleged.

In a brief preliminary filing received by the court Monday, Berg argued that his attorneys should have tried to block the admissibility of some statements he made before being indicted. He also said his defense team should have done its own investigation into the books at Meridian, rather than relying on the forensic accounting done by bankruptcy trustee Mark Calvert.

Had his defense done these things, Berg asserted, he would have been better positioned to go to trial or to arrange a more lenient plea deal.

Berg, 50, is being held at Lompoc federal prison in California. In the appeal directed to U.S. District Court Judge Richard Jones, who sentenced him on Feb. 9, 2012, Berg asked permission to detail his arguments.

Emily Langlie, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said prosecutors don’t believe Berg’s arguments have merit.

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