AUGUSTA, Maine — A Maine prison official was arrested Tuesday on felony charges after prosecutors said he took illegal kickbacks from vendors as part of a “long-running scheme.”
Gerald Merrill, 61, of Abbot, was booked into the Penobscot County Jail in Bangor around noon Tuesday after a warrant had been put out for his arrest, according to jail records. He is facing felony charges of theft and bribery in official or political matters.
Merrill appeared Wednesday afternoon via Zoom from jail for his initial court hearing in Bangor, with Superior Court Judge Patrick Larson lowering his bail from $50,000 to $5,000 and ordering him to not have contact with one person whose relationship to Merrill was not immediately clear. HIs next court date is currently scheduled for Oct. 10.
Merrill was engaged in a long-running scheme using state money to purchase products from vendors in exchange for illegal kickbacks, Attorney General Aaron Frey’s office said in a Wednesday news release. An investigation began after the state auditor’s office noticed irregular payments on purchase cards under Merrill’s control.
Detectives with the attorney general’s office and Maine State Police personnel executed search warrants Tuesday at Mountain View Correctional Facility in Charleston and at Merrill’s home before arresting him, according to the news release.
Records indicated he was barred from contact with two state prisons and certain companies. He will make an initial court appearance at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
Merrill will be represented by Augusta-based attorney Walter McKee, who did not immediately respond to an email and phone call seeking comment Wednesday afternoon.
In the news release from the attorney general’s office, Corrections Commissioner Randy Liberty said he was “deeply disturbed by these allegations” and supports the prosecution.
“The Maine Department of Corrections expects its employees, like all state employees, to adhere to the highest standards of ethical and professional conduct and failure to do so is unacceptable,” Liberty said in a statement.
Merrill, 61, has been a deputy superintendent with the corrections department since 2012, according to his LinkedIn profile. He is listed as working for Mountain View Correctional Facility in Charleston, which houses male inmates about 27 miles northwest of Bangor, and the attorney general’s office said he also works for the Downeast Correctional Facility in Machiasport.
Merrill describes his role on his LinkedIn profile as steering “all operations including budget management, human resources, employee relations, plant maintenance, warehouse supply and regulatory compliance.”
He previously worked as the policy development coordinator for the corrections department and as a compliance manager and investigator for the state, according to his LinkedIn page.
From 2014 to 2018, Merrill was an adjunct professor at Kaplan University, where he also earned his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and master’s degree in criminal justice and law enforcement administration.
BDN writers Kathleen O’Brien and Michael Shepherd contributed to this report.