Former High-Ranking State Corrections Official Pleads Guilty To Extortion

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TRENTON – Lydell B. Sherrer, a former deputy commissioner of the N.J. Department of Corrections (“NJDOC”), admitted Tuesday to attempting to obtain $10,000 from an employee in exchange for securing that person’s continued employment with the department or its private contractor, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Sherrer, 52, of Neptune, who previously served as deputy commissioner of the NJDOC and as assistant commissioner of its Division of Programs and Community Services, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Joel A. Pisano in Trenton federal court to count one of an indictment charging him with the extortion of a cooperating witness identified in court filings as “Individual One.” Sherrer was previously charged in a 12-count indictment with extortion and bribery for soliciting money from five separate employees or former employees of NJDOC between February 2010 and October 2010 in exchange for his official action and assistance.

“The crime to which this defendant pleaded guilty is especially offensive, given his role as a member of law enforcement,” Fishman said. “Mr. Sherrer not only abused his public trust, he tried to enrich himself by taking advantage of subordinates who wanted only to keep their jobs.”

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Following Individual One’s layoff notice from the NJDOC in April 2010, Sherrer said he could secure Individual One’s continued employment with the NJDOC or with private entities that contracted with the NJDOC in exchange for $10,000. Sherrer admitted that on May 17, 2010, he accepted $5,000 in cash from Individual One as an installment of the agreed upon $10,000. In his guilty plea, Sherrer agreed that he solicited and received $69,000 in bribes between 2006 and 2008 from the five individuals identified in the indictment and from three additional people. Sherrer further agreed to forfeit $9,000, which represented proceeds of his criminal activity, and to pay approximately $22,500 in restitution.

The extortion count to which Sherrer pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. He is currently scheduled to be sentenced on June 11.

Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward, for the investigation leading to the charges. He also thanked the N.J. Department of Corrections Special Investigation Division for their cooperation and assistance throughout the investigation.

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