Builder of 'Kids for Cash' Jails Headed to Jail Himself

Judge goes over prosecutor's recommended sentence
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 25, 2014 3:49 PM CDT
Builder of 'Kids for Cash' Jails Headed to Jail Himself
Robert Mericle leaves the William J. Federal Building and US Courthouse, April 25, 2014, in Scranton, Pa., after being sentenced to a year in prison.   (AP Photo/Scranton Times-Tribune, Michael J. Mullen)

How long will you spend in prison for paying a judge to send thousands of kids to juvenile detention? In developer Robert Mericle's case, the answer is one year. Mericle and a lawyer paid more than $2 million in "finder's fees" to a pair of judges to send inmates to two jails Mericle built, in the infamous "Kids for Cash" scandal. But paying those fees wasn't technically illegal for Mericle; his crime was lying about them to investigators, the Wilkes Barre Times-Leader explains.

Prosecutors had suggested Mericle spend only six months in jail, noting that he'd eventually cooperated with the government and testified against the corrupt judges—who got far longer sentences. A number of character witnesses also spoke up for Mericle, WNEP reports, and Mericle's lawyer cited his record of philanthropy. But Judge Edwin Kosik said Mericle was trafficking on his contributions to society, and deserved a harsh sentence. "This false information was nothing but corruption," he said. (Read more Robert Mericle stories.)

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