|Clifford R. Merchant, 67, an Anchorage physician, is arraigned on Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014|
Alaska State Troopers and Anchorage Airport Police arrested Clifford R. Merchant, 67, on an outstanding warrant as he entered Ted Stevens International Airport on Saturday, troopers said. He had an out-of-state flight booked, according to officials.
Merchant is charged with 11 counts of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor, three counts of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor and one count of attempted first-degree sexual abuse of a minor, all felonies.
Troopers said they first heard of the abuse in July, when a 12-year-old girl reported to the Alaska Bureau of Investigation that she had been touched inappropriately in the past by Merchant.
Interviews led troopers to two more victims, according to an online dispatch.
The charges stem from incidents between 2001 and 2013 involving three separate female victims, all under the age of 13, according to the indictment.
The alleged molestation took place at Merchant’s home in South Anchorage, his plane and his cabin at Shell Lake near Skwentna, according to court documents.
The alleged abuse took place when the victims were as young as 5 and as old as 12, according to charges. It’s not clear why the children were at Merchant’s residences or how they knew him.
Providence Alaska Medical Center said it had suspended physician privileges for Merchant, who worked in the hospital’s emergency department as a contract physician.
“Providence is fully cooperating with the ongoing investigation and will notify the Alaska State Medical Board,” wrote Providence spokesman Mike Canfield in an email.
Canfield did not provide information on Merchant’s tenure with the hospital, including whether he ever worked in other departments and how long he was employed there. An Anchorage Daily News article from 1993 describes Merchant as an “emergency room doctor at Providence Hospital.”
State business license documents show that Merchant is the majority owner of First Care Medical Centers LLC, which operates two walk-in medical clinics in Anchorage. He is also listed as a physician provider on the company’s website.
An email sent to a manager at First Care was not immediately returned Sunday.
At least one person was suspicious of Merchant years ago: In an online forum called Ripoff Report , an anonymous poster in 2008 claimed that the doctor had sexually abused their child. The post also claimed Merchant had been reported to the Office of Children’s Services.
I suspect there will be an investigation as to why Merchant was allowed to continue to practice, and to molest little girls for 5 years after he was first reported. There certainly should be - someone didn't do their job and little girls paid for it.
Susan Morgan, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Social Services, which oversees OCS, said she could not comment “due to confidentiality laws.”
On Sunday afternoon, Merchant appeared in court at the Anchorage Correctional Complex jail court wearing a yellow prison jumpsuit.
Merchant told the magistrate that he had hired a private attorney. His bail was set for $500,000 with a required third-party custodian.