High bail set for Auburn man charged with importing $3 million in fentanyl

May 1—LEWISTON — A judge set bail Monday at $500,000 for an Auburn man who reportedly had a crate containing more than 30 pounds of fentanyl worth $3 million on the street mailed to himself at an Auburn restaurant last week.

Jeremy Mercier, 41, appeared in 8th District Court by videoconference from Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn where he has been held since his arrest Friday.

Mercier is charged with aggravated importation of drugs and two counts of aggravated trafficking in scheduled drugs, each felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

He also is charged with violation of condition of release, a misdemeanor which he denied Monday.

Because Mercier had been free on bail when he was arrested on the new charges, an alleged bail violation, he will be held without bail until his court hearing on prosecutors' motion to revoke his bail. That hearing is scheduled for May 30.

Mercier wasn't asked to enter pleas on the new charges because they are felony crimes. Felony cases must be presented to a grand jury before they can go to trial, unless the defendant were to waive indictment.

Assistant District Attorney Nathan Walsh said Mercier was convicted in federal court in 2007 of drug trafficking and was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison.

"So given the fact that he had a very significant federal sentence, for very, very similar conduct, the allegations here are that the Auburn Police Department seized 14 kilos of fentanyl with a street value of $3 million in a shipment that was made to a local restaurant with Mr. Mercier's name on the shipping envelope and Mr. Mercier came to the establishment looking for the package," Walsh said.

"The state feels that it has a very strong case here," he said.

Walsh said federal authorities likely would become interested in the case and that a high cash bail would help ensure Mercier will appear in court for future hearings.

The package was reportedly mailed to Mercier from Arizona, giving federal authorities jurisdiction to prosecute the case.

Mercier's lawyer, Verne Paradie, said Monday that his client was free on bail on misdemeanor charges when he was arrested Friday on the drug charges.

Mercier owns and runs a local motorcycle repair shop and has local family ties.

He asked the judge to set bail at $50,000 cash, noting he had clients charged with murder whose bail had been set at less than $500,000.

Judge Philip Mohlar agreed that $500,000 was a "very, very high amount," but ordered Mercier held without bail pending his bail revocation hearing at the end of the month. He suggested Mercier wouldn't be able to post bail over the next 30 days regardless of the amount.

Conditions of release following the bail revocation hearing include no possession of alcohol or illegal drugs for which he can be searched if suspected of having them.

Mercier is barred from being at Mac's Grill at 1052 Minot Ave. and is prohibited from having any contact with any of its employees.

Prosecutors also are seeking to have Mercier forfeit $2,780 in suspected drug proceeds that was seized by authorities during his arrest.

Police said when employees opened the crate mailed to the restaurant last week, they found a plastic tote inside that contained the drugs.

The shipping container had been made to look like it contained motorcycle parts, according to witnesses.

It was not immediately clear why the package was sent there. Mercier has no current ties to the restaurant.

His 2007 conviction stemmed from his leadership in a local drug ring that for three years provided crack cocaine and marijuana to users in Androscoggin County, according to published reports.