By WILSON RING Associated Press
Two of the three suspects facing federal charges in a case that led to the 2018 killing of a Vermont man pleaded not guilty Thursday to a new charge of wire fraud as part of a transcontinental murder-for-hire case.
The third suspect in the abduction and killing of Gregory Davis of Danville also appeared in court by video Thursday, but he was not charged with fraud.
Serhat Gumrukcu and Berk Eratay were charged earlier this month in an updated indictment with wire fraud as part of the case that led to the kidnapping and shooting death of Gregory Davis, 49, of Danville. The two men were previously charged with arranging to have the third defendant, Jerry Banks, kidnap and kill Davis.
The attorneys for Gumrukcu and Eratay entered not guilty pleas on their behalf to the new charge. Banks’ attorney said her client maintained the not guilty plea he entered earlier this year to the kidnapping and murder charge.
All three defendants appeared in court from the correctional facilities where they are being held without bail.
Prosecutors have alleged that Davis was killed because he was ready to go to the FBI to complain that Gumrukcu, 40, a native of Turkey who immigrated to the United States in 2013 who was living in Los Angeles when he was arrested in May, was failing to live up to his obligations in an oil trading deal.
In 2017, Gumrukcu was also putting together a different deal through which he obtained a significant ownership stake in Enochian Biosciences, a Los Angeles based biotechnology company. Prosecutors have said that if Davis would have complained to the FBI about Gumrukcu it could have jeopardized the biotechnology deal.
After Davis’ death, investigators worked for more than four years to build a chain connecting the four suspects: Banks, who was friends with Aron Lee Ethridge, of Las Vegas, who was friends with Eratay, who worked for Gumrukcu.
Ethridge pleaded guilty last summer and is awaiting sentencing.