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Maine Prison Official Charged with Theft and Bribery in Decade-Long Kickback Scheme

A deputy prison superintendent with the Maine Department of Corrections (DOC) was arrested and charged with theft and bribery on July 25, 2023. Gerald E. Merrill, 61, is accused of using his state-issued credit card over the course of 10 years to steer purchases to vendors who then returned kickbacks. An alleged accomplice in the scheme, Melanie Ann High, was arrested in Broward County, Florida, three days later on July 28, 2023.

Merrill has worked for DOC since 2012, most recently as Deputy Superintendent of Mountain View Correctional Facility in Charleston and Downeast Correctional Facility in Machiasport, managing budgets at both prisons. The allegations against him stem from an investigation launched by state Auditor Matthew Dunlap into state employee use of “P-cards,” state-issued credit cards for small procurement purchases that traditionally would come from petty cash, without need of a contract bid. But segregating accounting functions like custody of funds, payment authorization and record maintenance is also avoided, so during a slow period he went fishing through paperwork to see how frequently state employees were making purchases near the $4,999 cap. What he noticed were repeated transactions of Merrill’s within $100 of the limit. Dunlap then alerted the office of Attorney General Aaron Frey (D), who investigated and uncovered numerous illegal purchases.

Merrill stands accused of using his P-card from March 2014 until his arrest to pay five companies: A to Z Chemical Supply, ACS Solutions, Service Industries, Southern Source Industries and Starlite Supplies. The companies then allegedly kicked back money to his personal account. Dunlap said he observed similarities on the firms’ websites—the same products for sale, but no way to pay for them—which raised his suspicion they were shell companies. High was reportedly a principal in all five companies.

She faces one count each of theft and bribery in official and political matters. Merrill is charged with one count of theft by unauthorized taking and one count of bribery in official and political matters. The theft charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. He is free on a $5,000 bond awaiting trial. High was reportedly taken into custody by Broward County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) deputies but is no longer listed in BCSO custody.  


Source: Portland Press Herald

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