FBI: Anchorage doctor facing sexual abuse of minors charges tried to hire hit man to kill victim
Bail for an Anchorage doctor facing sexual abuse of a minor charges was revoked when the Federal Bureau of Investigation discovered he tried to hire someone to kill at least one of his victims.
Clifford Merchant, 68, was charged with 33 counts of possession of child pornography and sexual abuse of a minor in October of last year in a case that spanned more than a decade. Four victims were listed in court records, two of whom no longer live in Alaska.
Merchant’s original bail was set at $500,000, but recently retired Superior Court Judge Michael Spaan reduced the amount to $75,000. Merchant paid the amount and was released to two third-party custodians with a condition prohibiting him from having any contact with his victims.
Shortly after his release, Merchant and one of his victims, R.R., met with an individual referred to as “The Bull” in court documents. He reportedly tried to hire “The Bull” to kill the two victims living outside Alaska, according to affidavits from an Alaska State Trooper working with the FBI. “The Bull” was later arrested for an unrelated case, and agreed to work with the FBI as an informant against Merchant.
“The Bull” reinitiated contact with Merchant, who paid for his plane ticket up to Alaska, court records show. R.R. met “The Bull” at the Anchorage Westmark Hotel, and spoke with Merchant on the phone while there, according to court records. R.R. helped to arrange a meeting with Merchant at his custodian’s home.
The FBI outlined a conversation between Merchant and “The Bull” that was recorded and out of sight of Merchant’s custodian:
“The informant asked ‘how many?’ meaning how many victims. Dr. Merchant responded by asking how much it could cost for one victim. The informant indicated the cost would be about $30,000. There is additional conversation about whether it would be done by the informant himself, or someone local. Dr. Merchant appears to hesitate based on the price, and tells the informant that he needs to get ‘all the pieces in place.’ He gives the informant $1,000, to get things started and to compensate him for his time.”
Court records show R.R. then drove “The Bull” to their home, and then to the airport. The conversation between the two was also recorded, and R.R. gave “The Bull” a “slip of paper that indicated the names of [the two victims]… along with the cities that they live in and their places of employment,” court records read. R.R. told him the sister of one of the victims may also be a problem as she provided testimony in the case.
The FBI reported that R.R. later told him Merchant “did not want it done anymore.”
“What is unclear is whether Dr. Merchant has attempted to contract anyone else, or has fully renounced his intent to have his victims killed,” Assistant District Attorney Brittany Dunlop wrote in a motion to forfeit Merchant’s bail.
Anchorage Superior Court Judge Michael Corey approved a new bail amount of $10 million cash performance with a third party custodian on Nov. 24. No new charges have yet been filed in relation to the case.
KTVA 11’s Eric Ruble contributed to this report.
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