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Delaware trooper suspended amid investigation of thefts

September 7, 2021 GMT

DOVER, Del. (AP) — A Delaware state trooper has been suspended with pay amid a federal investigation into a series of thefts from a package reshipping company in New Castle.

According to an FBI affidavit unsealed late last week, Jamal J. Merrell, 31, is suspected of violating federal civil rights law by using his position as a law enforcement officer to deprive someone else of a right or privilege.

The affidavit was filed in support of an application for a search warrant allowing investigators to examine the contents of an iPhone taken from Merrell after investigators with the FBI and Delaware State Police interviewed him at his home on July 8. FBI agent Joshua Wilson stated in the 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.

Merrell is the second Delaware trooper identified within the past two weeks as the subject of a criminal investigation.

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Authorities announced on Aug. 31 that Cpl. Edwin R. Ramirez, who has won recognition for his traffic enforcement efforts, was facing criminal charges alleging that he issued phony traffic warnings to motorists. Ramirez was indicted on felony charges of tampering with public records and issuing a false certificate. He also faces misdemeanor charges of falsifying business records and official misconduct.

The investigation of Merrell, who has not been charged, began 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 the affidavit, the businessman lives in the country of Georgia but traveled to the U.S. after learning of the incidents.

The business is referred to in the affidavit as TTL and fits the description of Totaltranslogistics LLC, a company in New Castle that specializes in shipping packages to Georgia.

Employees reported that Merrell had visited the company at least 10 times beginning in February. 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 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 retaping 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.

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During the July 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 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.”

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 Newark, 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, the affidavit states.

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.