Former Maine Turnpike chief released from prison

Attorney Peter DeTroy leads his client, former Maine Turnpike Authority executive director Paul Violette, from the Cumberland County Courthouse Thursday afternoon, Feb. 9, 2012. Violette had just pleaded guilty to theft from his former employer. BDN photo by Seth Koenig.

Attorney Peter DeTroy leads his client, former Maine Turnpike Authority executive director Paul Violette, from the Cumberland County Courthouse Thursday afternoon, Feb. 9, 2012. Violette had just pleaded guilty to theft from his former employer. BDN photo by Seth Koenig.

Paul Violette, former director of the Maine Turnpike Authority, left prison Wednesday, nearly 20 months after being handed a seven-year sentence for stealing loads of money from the agency to pay for stays at upscale hotels, meals at fancy restaurants and spa treatments.

Violette pleaded guilty in 2012 of felony theft after the Authority filed suit against him in 2011. In April, 2012, he was sentenced to seven years in prison, with half the sentence suspended.

Violette left the minimum-security Bolduc Correctional Facility in Warren on Wednesday morning to enter home confinement for the rest of his sentence, according to Department of Corrections spokesman Scott Fish. Violette was released as part of the state’s supervised community confinement program, Fish said.

He will also continue community service work, as required by his sentence, from his brother’s home in Orrington, according to a blog maintained by Violette’s family members.

A 2011 forensic audit of the MTA’s finances, coupled with an investigation by the Legislature’s Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, revealed roughly $450,000 in expenditures between 2003 and 2010 that were undocumented or unauthorized.

Violette was implicated in questionable spending practices, including the purchase of $150,000 in gift cards to posh hotels and restaurants, some of which he reportedly used himself, some of which were donated to other organizations unrelated to turnpike business. On one day, Violette purchased more than $35,000 worth of gift cards to Hyatt hotels, according to the complaint. On another, $10,000 was spent on Hyatt gift cards. A few days later, $15,000 worth of Fairmont hotel gift cards were purchased.

Violette was also paid for $160,000 in vacation and sick time to which he was not entitled.

Mario Moretto

About Mario Moretto

Mario Moretto has been a Maine journalist, in print and online publications, since 2009. He joined the Bangor Daily News in 2012, first as a general assignment reporter in his native Hancock County and, now, in the State House.