AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — A second arrest has been made in the investigation into a Maine corrections official accused of steering purchases to certain vendors in exchange for kickbacks in a long-running scheme, officials said.
Melanie Ann High, who was arrested Thursday in Florida, is accused of using kickbacks to induce Gerald E. Merrill, deputy superintendent at the Mountain View Correctional Facility in Charleston and Downeast Correctional Facility in Machiasport, to make repeated purchases from companies she controlled, according to court records.
High, 67, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was being held without bail Friday at a jail in Broward County, Florida, on Maine charges of theft by unauthorized taking and bribery in official and political matters, according to records.
The state charges against Merrill and High indicate the spending threshold of the crimes surpassed $10,000, but the actual amount of money transferred over a period of about 10 years is believed to be far higher. State Auditor Matthew Dunlap and Danna Hayes, the attorney general’s spokesperson, declined Friday to say how much money was spent by Merrill.
It was unclear when High was going to be brought to Maine to face charges, or whether she had a lawyer. Merrill, 61, made his initial court appearance via Zoom on Wednesday.
Dunlap said the attorney general’s criminal investigation stemmed from a broader inquiry by his office of routine transactions using procurement cards, which are a modern equivalent of petty cash.
Merrill, who managed budgets at the two prisons, was found to have made an excessive number of procurement card purchases near the spending limit of $4,999, arousing the curiosity of an auditing team, Dunlap said. The purchases were for items that should’ve been covered by a master agreement instead of being handled by multiple, smaller purchases, he said.
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