Former trooper to plead guilty in warehouse package thefts

September 15, 2022 GMT

DOVER, Del. (AP) — A Delaware state trooper who was suspended with pay amid a federal investigation into a series of thefts from a package reshipping company will enter a guilty plea in federal court later this month.

Court records indicate that Jamal J. Merrell will make an initial appearance on Sept. 29 and plead guilty at that time to a misdemeanor count of deprivation of rights under color of law. The offense involves Merrell using his position as a law enforcement officer to deprive someone else of a right or privilege.

Merrell’s attorney, Eugene Maurer Jr., confirmed that his client will plead guilty but declined further comment.

A spokeswoman for Delaware State Police said Thursday that Merrell, 32, is no longer a trooper.

Merrell faces a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

The planned guilty plea comes more than a year after investigators with the FBI and Delaware State Police interviewed Merrell at his home in July 2021 and seized an iPhone. FBI agent Joshua Wilson stated in a search warrant affidavit that he and another FBI agent seized the phone fearing that Merrell would delete evidence from it after he refused to give his consent for authorities to search it.

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The investigation began after an official with Totaltranslogistics LLC and his attorney went to the FBI office in Wilmington to report suspicious incidents over several months. TTL is an international reshipping company in New Castle that specializes in shipping packages to the country of Georgia. According to the affidavit, the businessman lives in Georgia but traveled to the U.S. after learning of the incidents.

Employees reported that Merrell had visited the company at least 10 times beginning in February 2021, when he told employees that he was conducting an investigation and would need to inspect packages at the warehouse. He also insisted that he be left alone when conducting the inspections, according to the affidavit.

Employees reported that Merrell could be seen on surveillance footage removing items from large containers, putting them in a cart, then moving the cart to an area outside video surveillance coverage and near an exterior door.

“Merrell would return an empty cart at the conclusion of these inspections. Merrell was also observed re—taping the larger shipping boxes from which he had removed items,” Wilson wrote.

A company official reported that he had received more than $20,000 in claims from customers for items missing from shipments or never delivered.

Merrell told authorities that he began an investigation after receiving a complaint about missing merchandise that had been shipped in June 2020. He said he made regular visits to the company and collected several items he deemed “suspicious” but did not provide receipts for the items he seized and did not report the seizures to his superiors, according to the affidavit.

Instead, Merrell told investigators that he sometimes kept items in his patrol vehicle or would take them home “out of concern of a theft from the vehicle.”

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After learning that he might be the subject of an investigation, Merrell delivered several items to a state police facility in Newark, leaving them at the sally port instead of in the evidence locker. He also left an inventory of items he had seized, including laptop computers, cellphones and other items in their original packaging, according to investigators.

Asked by investigators whether he had sold any items he took, Merrell said he had been told by a company employee that a certain section of the warehouse had been designated for “trash.” Merrell told investigators he had taken about 100 iPhones from that area and sold them through Facebook.