Mericle Sentenced to Federal Prison

SCRANTON — A federal judge has sentenced Robert Mericle to one year in federal prison.

The sentence was handed down in federal court in Scranton around 11 a.m.

Developer Robert Mericle said nothing as he left the federal courthouse in Scranton after learning his punishment: $250,000 in fines, 100 hours of community service, and one year in federal prison, a term that surprised a well-known figure in the kids for cash scandal.

“I had my doubts because of the power and the money.”

Sandy Fonzo, who blames her son’s suicide on the Kids for Cash scandal worried Mericle would get little or no prison time.

“In the words of his lifelong friend Mark Ciavarella, he needed to be held accountable, and I feel that it’s just, and I’m happy,” Fonzo said.

“This was a win for the people, a win for the victims,” said Frank Soric of Wilkes-Barre

In September 2009, Mericle pleaded guilty to charges of withholding information about the deal that led to the Kids for Cash scandal.

Mericle got the contract to build a for-profit juvenile detention center near Pittston. ┬áHe paid more than $2 million to Luzerne County Judges Michael Conahan and Mark Ciavarella as a finder’s fee.

As a result of the scandal, Ciavarella is serving a 28-year federal prison term Conahan is serving a 17-year sentence.

When Mericle entered the federal courthouse in Scranton in the morning, he hoped his lawyers would convince Judge Edwin Kosik to a sentence of probation or house arrest, for his many good deeds and cooperation with federal prosecutors.

But when Judge Kosik handed down his sentence, he said of Mericle, “I believe he is trafficking on his contributions to the community.”

Judge Kosik added the case was about, “nothing but corruption.”

“When Mr. Mericle makes a donation, it’s for an ulterior motive, and I think that’s the point the judge took, in that same sense,” said Soric.

A number of character witnesses testified on Mericle’s behalf before the sentence was announced.

Mericle’s attorney noted his cooperation with the government, helping convict former judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan with his testimony.

Mericle said he was sorry and ashamed to put his family and friends through this.

Prosecutors said corrupt public officials wouldn’t be corrupt if there weren’t people who paid them the money.

U.S. Attorney Peter Smith called the sentence “appropriate.”

Mericle pleaded guilty in September 2009 to charges of failing to report a federal crime to authorities.

For more than four and a half years, developer Rob Mericle said nothing about his role in the so-called Kids for Cash scandal in the Luzerne County justice system.

At the federal trial of former judge Mark Ciavarella, Mericle testified he paid Ciavarella and ex-judge Michael Conahan more than $2 million in finder’s fees.

In return, Mericle Construction built a pair of for-profit juvenile lockups, including the one in Luzerne County that was at the heart of the crime.

Ciavarella and Conahan were sentenced to long federal prison terms.

Mericle’s lawyers are expected to note Mericle’s civic contributions, including his donation of equipment and manpower during a crisis in 2011.

Mericle Construction’s equipment during the September flood of 2011 helped buffer weak spots of the west side of the Susquehanna River levee that protects Kingston and Forty Fort.

Mericle has until June 2 to report to federal prison.

35 comments

  • tom

    I don’t understand why this man and the judges involved aren’t doing their time in the county prisons like the average joe does.just like the county commisioners from Lacakawanna county.Why are these crooks so different from the peasants of the area?

  • AFINKSTER

    The one thing I haven’t see in the Media yet is, the amount of money he earned for the Kids For Cash scam. Just how much money did he earn from the Government coffers by having all those kids sent to his joints?
    This same stuff is probably happening all over the state and has not been investigated yet.

  • paul

    One year in prison, are you kidding me? Oh wait, i forgot, we live in Luzerne County, home of political corruption. Things will never change here, if you got money, and know the right people, you walk away, it’s that simple.

  • Me

    Sounds like this judge took a bribe too. All corruption and a slap on the hand. One year ????? Lol.
    They said justice system In Pa was fixed. I think it’s getting worse !!
    Where the hell is the FBI. I want outside help brought in to show Pa how a state should be run. We have nothing but idiots from top to bottom. This included our politicians, our local officials and our entire board of education, including the teachers. What the hell already ? What are you voters on,…..dope ????

    • Ryan

      You are exactly right, the corruption here will never be fixed without outside help. Maybe we citizens of PA need to somehow start calling in the Federal Government to investigate some of these folks as they sure aren’t policing themselves.

  • Joe Public

    Corruption ??? How about calling the crime what is was A BRIBE. Somehow the US Attorneys office thinks the public is either that stupid or they are just smarter than everyone.

    This man lied to the end saying that he should have told people to ” go to hell ” .. when in reality others ( Musto , Chiv, Conahan , et al) should have told this millionaire RAT to go to hell.

    Kosik did the best he could under sentencing guidelines but the fact is that a zero should have been after that 1 … As in TEN YEARS … and then perhaps … perhaps … justice would have been met.

  • Michelle Matthews

    I know a few people that were involved and the kids for cash scandal meaning victims children of our future whose lives have now been ruined because of time spent in the facilities time they will never get back in school that childhood with their families when he gets one year if he would have never given these to craft judges 2 million dollars and finders fees and all the other fees they would have never been locked up stuff as little as a girl having her mother with a pillow got locked up kids doing white collar crime now having their lives run because they were thrown in the juvenile system so early instead of giving him some kind of program that will wipe the slate clean and give them a second chance yes I do know some kids do things that they shouldn’t get second chances but in life we all deserve a second chance sometimes when I brought up in the right world or the right environment and we do things to outlast to get attention to fit in so now their lives someone have been taken bye suicide some lives haven’t taken because of people thinking they have no other choice but to live a life like a criminal so because of this kids her cast and all not enough money in the world is going to make it okay for these kids because I can guarantee all the money these kids are gone is most likely gone because they were unjustly and they have spent the money on things that they probably would have never spent on before like drugs and alcohol or maybe parents should have been putting it away for them and putting it to college or something important.

  • oldguy

    How much money we will get back from reverted KOZ Zones now that sentence has passed? Or are we to continue to subsidize him and his friends. Maybe the Chief County Accessor will grow a set and release all the County KOZ real estate since we are payin for those of privledge that the County allows not to pay. What do you say Luzerne Council?? A little more important than chickens…

  • Charly Lucky

    Mericle pleaded guilty in September 2009 to charges of failing to report a federal crime to authorities. He failed to report it,because he was the one doing it, he was handing out the envelopes!!!!!

  • Jim Doxsey

    He was the root cause of the whole scandal. If he hadn’t bribed the judges, the kids and their families would not have suffered. Lock him up in the cell with the judges for 28 years.

  • Brigid Bishop

    Ridiculous that he gets off with a slap on the wrist. He should have been sentenced to a total of all of the time the children who were unjustly incarcerated spent behind bars. One year, what an insult. Commit a blue collar crime as a juvenile, loose your youth. Commit a white collar crime as a wealthy businessman, cry “cooperation” and get a slap on the wrist. Our legal system needs to truly stop considering a persons “position” in the community and penalize by the crime committed equally across the board. He has ruined the lives of thousands of children, destroyed families, and all for a the filth of wealth. He disgusts me.

    • Brigid Bishop

      The majority of the children involved WERE good kids, hence the crime. Know your facts. Had the children involved been being justly punished there would have been no crime.

      One year is not nearly long enough, his sentence should have been a total of all the time the children in his systems unjustly served.

      This is a ridiculously light sentence.

  • Ted

    He had to do some time…even if just a year.
    Too many people watching this case.
    Huge payoffs to local judges kept him from doing longer.
    Had this been heard by a federal judge from out o town
    I’m sure they would’ve thrown the book at him.

  • Lisa

    I am truly disgusted that he got prison time. He has done everything he’s been asked/ordered to do and then some. He has a family, including his mother who is up in years, that depend on him, not just financially, but emotionally as well. Probation should have been ordered! Hang in there, Rob!

    • Brigid Bishop

      He committed a crime, his sentence is too lenient. He helped ruin thousands of children’s lives, destroyed families, all for the might dollar. It wasn’t HIS money that helped the community, it was the money he illegally gained by being a criminal. He should have got decades.

    • Charly Lucky

      Lisa, how do you look at yourself in the mirror???? Hang in there Rob???? Are you as twisted as he is??? Your reasoning is he shouldn’t go to jail because his mom and family depend on him?????? YOU SERIOUSLY NEED HELP. HE WAS THE SEED THAT STARTED ALL THE KIDS FOR CASH. HIS IDEA, HIS BRIBES, HIS PAY OFFS, HIS KICKBACKS!!!!

    • Ryan

      Which is disgusting considering he was the person most responsible. If it wasn’t for him building the prisons and bribing the judges the situation more than likely wouldn’t have occurred at all. Just because he was willing to testify against two people he essentially recruited does not excuse him from the fact that he put the plan in motion. It’s great that we’ve gotten two corrupt judges off the bench but this man deserves much, much more prison time than he received.

  • Don

    1 year? How much money did he personally make off of the countless kids that his facility housed at the behest of the Judges? 365 days is nothing. He deserves much longer for his involvement. To use the charitable aspects coming in after the fact is bunk. This man was and is a crook. If you are white, have money, and have access to the best legal defense this is what happens. He deserves much more than a year. The fact that he will be able to spend the proceeds of his crooked business is also bunk.

  • Bleh

    No proof?.. if there were no evidance, why did he plead guilty? .. exactly, he confessed…

    Jail time IS needed for this man. Doing so much for a community does not make you exempt from the law.

    stating things like “oh if he goes to prision people will lose jobs.”

    sure sounds like he hasn’t learned his lesson, trying to use his position of influence, money and power to BUY his way out of something… much like he did with judges.

    that is exactly WHY he needs jail time.

  • H. B. DeLaRue Jr. EMT-P

    Sadly, I see that a number of people support the one year sentance of Mr. Mericle for the “Good Deeds” he’s done since this whole mess kicked off. Regardless of how “helpful” his testimony was in convicting the Judges now serving prison terms, let’s NOT forget that this man bought his way into an already somewhat skewed justice system and probably made more money then he paid out. Personally, I don’t think his sentence is long enough. If he were anyone else, he’d have been sent away for much longer!

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