A former Delaware State Police trooper from Newark has pleaded guilty to stealing from a local company under the ruse of conducting a fraud investigation.
Jamal Merrell, 32, pleaded guilty to one count of deprivation of rights under color of law and could face up to a year in federal prison when sentenced in January.
“The defendant betrayed the public trust for personal gain. His conduct undermines the honorable law enforcement officers who protect and serve our communities every day,” U.S. Attorney David C. Weiss said in a prepared statement. “I commend the Delaware State Police Internal Investigations Unit for their cooperation with the FBI during this investigation.”
The investigation began in the summer of 2021 after an official with the company and his attorney went to the FBI office in Wilmington to report suspicious incidents over a period of several months, according to court records.
The company, TotalTransLogistics LLC, is located in New Castle and specializes in shipping packages internationally.
Employees reported that Merrell had visited the company at least 10 times beginning in February 2021. He told employees during his first visit that he was conducting an investigation and that he would need to inspect packages at the warehouse. He also insisted that he be left alone when conducting the inspections, according to court records.
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 retaping the larger shipping boxes from which he had removed items,”an FBI agent wrote in court documents.
A company official reported that he had received more than $20,000 in claims from customers for items missing from shipments or never delivered.
During an interview with investigators, Merrell said 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 numerous items that he deemed “suspicious.” He did not provide receipts from the items he seized and did not report the seizures to his superiors, according to court records.
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.”
After learning that he might be the subject of a complaint from the company, Merrell delivered several items to the DSP’s Troop 2 facility in Glasgow, leaving them at the sally port instead of in the evidence locker. He also left an inventory of items that he had seized, including laptop computers, cellphones and other items in their original packaging, according to court records.
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 that he had taken about 100 iPhones from that area and sold them on three separate occasions to a person advertising on Facebook as a purchaser of iPhones.
DSP suspended Merrell with pay last year, but charges were not filed against him until last month. According to prosecutors, he is no longer employed as a state trooper.
“Every Trooper within the Delaware State Police takes an oath to faithfully serve and protect the citizens of this great state. We are an organization that recognizes while fulfilling our sacred mission to protect and serve the public, we must also hold our own members accountable for any actions that jeopardize public trust,” DSP Superintendent Col. Melissa Zebley said in a prepared statement.
According to public records, Merrell earned more than $77,000 per year with DSP. Before becoming a state trooper, he briefly played football for the Tennessee Titans.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.