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Former Maine Turnpike Authority Executive Director Sentenced for Theft
April 6, 2012
AUGUSTA – Attorney General William J. Schneider announced that former Maine Turnpike Authority Executive Director Paul E. Violette, 56, of Portland was sentenced today to seven years in prison, all but three and one-half years suspended, for the theft of Maine Turnpike Authority funds.
Violette pled guilty in February to one Class B theft charge involving his unauthorized use of gift cards and credit cards purchased with Turnpike Authority funds for personal travel, meals and other expenses. Class B theft is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court Justice Roland Cole sentenced Violette to seven years of incarceration, all but three and one-half years suspended and 1,500 hours of community service after his release from jail.
Violette was elected executive director of the Maine Turnpike Authority by its board in December 1987. In 2009, the Government Oversight Committee of the Legislature requested that the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability (OPEGA) review the operations of the Maine Turnpike Authority. OPEGA’s report, issued on January 28, 2011 first identified issues with the agency’s spending, including the purchase of over $200,000 in gift cards, allegedly for charity.
The OPEGA investigation revealed that Violette had, among other things, used gift cards from Akari, a Portland salon, to finance his own spa treatments and had cashed in Fairmont Hotel gift cards for stays by himself, family and friends at the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City for a conference of the Winston Churchill Society and for Winter Carnival.
Further investigation determined that Violette had been using gift cards purchased with Turnpike Authority funds to finance trips to Italy, Canada, Spain, Puerto Rico and France, as well as stays in boutique hotels in the Berkshires, Vermont and Maine.
Based on the information gathered by OPEGA, the Turnpike Authority’s audit and the Attorney General’s investigation, OPEGA concluded that between 2004 and 2010 Violette stole $175,000 to $230,000.
Violette resigned his position as executive director on March 7, 2011. In December 2011 he settled a civil suit filed against him by the Maine Turnpike Authority with a $155,000 payment, reportedly his net worth. The Travelers and CNA Casualty paid $155,000 and $100,000, respectively, as a result of Violette’s misuse of public funds.
“Mr. Violette’s sentence sends a strong message that we will fight corruption in government, regardless of an official’s power or position,” said Attorney General Schneider. “I commend OPEGA and the Government Oversight Committee for their diligent work to uncover the deliberate abuse of public trust committed by Mr. Violette.”
This case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin of Attorney General Schneider’s Criminal Division and was investigated by the Attorney General’s Investigations Division.