The final key figure sentenced in the Kids for Cash scandal will serve his prison time close to home.
Robert Mericle must report to the minimum security Schuylkill Federal Prison Camp near Minersville by 2 p.m. Monday to begin his 12-month sentence, U.S. Marshal Martin Pane said Saturday.
Senior U.S. District Judge Edwin Kosik rejected calls for leniency and on April 25 imposed the sentence on the 51-year-old Mericle of Jackson Township. The judgment came nearly five years after Mericle pleaded guilty to withholding information about the commission of a felony and it ended his role as a cooperating witness for federal prosecutors in corruption cases involving elected officials.
Mericle was one of the major players in the juvenile justice scandal involving former Luzerne County judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conaha,n who are serving lengthy prison sentences. While on the bench they benefited from a more than $2 million kickback scheme involving the construction of two for-profit juvenile detention centers built by Mericle and the placement of youths in the facilities in Pittston Township and Butler County.
Mericle, president of the Mericle Commercial Real Estate Services, paid approximately $2.1 million in finders fee to Ciavarella for bringing the construction of the facilities his way. In turn Ciavarella shared the money with Conahan. But neither of the former judges reported the income and attempted to conceal the payments from Mericle and attorney Robert Powell, former co-owner of the facilities.
Federal authorities charged Mericle with helping the former judges disguise the source of his paymentsl. Mericle pleaded guilty on Sept. 2, 2009, and waited until April 25 of this year to be sentenced.
During that time he cooperated with federal authorities, testifying as a prosecution witness at Ciavarella’s February 2011 trial. His help also resulted in the filing of corruption-related charges against the late state Sen. Raphael Musto of Pittston Township.
Mericle provided gifts and money to Musto in return for helping secure state funds for Mericle’s economic development projects, according to federal prosecutors. The 85-year-old longtime Democratic lawmaker suffered from health problems that delayed his trial. He died the day before Mericle’s sentencing.
Once he completes his prison sentence Mericle will be on probation for a year. He already satisfied the financial penalties associated with the sentencing by paying a $100 special assessment and $250,000 fine on May 8.