A Mahoning Township police officer, already on suspension while awaiting trial for allegedly falsifying an accident report, is facing new, unrelated forgery charges.
Marvin Z. Mertz, 35, of Knoll Drive, Lehighton, was arraigned yesterday by District Judge Edward Lewis on three counts of forgery and one count of tampering with records or identification.
Mertz, who allegedly forged signatures on a National Rifle Association (NRA) firearms instructor application, was released on $15,000 unsecured bail. A preliminary hearing is tentatively scheduled for July 7 before District Judge Bruce Appleton in Palmerton.
Mertz allegedly sought to renew an application to be a law enforcement firearms instructor.
The forgery charges were filed against Mertz by Agent James Maleno of the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General.
The complaint alleges that not only had Mertz forged documents, but he claimed that "lateness of his application was caused by his home being 'almost totally destroyed' by fire." The affidavit says a check of records with the Carbon County Communications Center shows no record of any fire call within the time frame alleged having occurred at the residence of Mertz.
Mertz has been suspended from the Mahoning Township Police Department since June 4, 2008, the affidavit says.
The suspension was the result of allegations from an incident which occurred on Jan. 31, 2007 during which it is alleged Mertz falsified an accident report for a friend. He faces numerous charges from that incident, including false reports and tampering records, with a jury trial scheduled for July 12.
The affidavit regarding the forgery charges states that the NRA in Fairfax, Va. received an application for a renewal request of a law enforcement firearms instructor.
"The application ... contained false information and forged certificates," said the complaint.
The Office of the Attorney General took over the investigation on April 12, on a request by Carbon County District Attorney Gary F. Dobias.
It was stated in the affidavit that Mertz was a former instructor whose certification expired on Aug. 22, 2009.
To recertify with the NRA as a firearms instructor, the applicant must submit proof of at least 24 hours of training in the three years since the applicant's last certification. It is alleged that Mertz had not received such training.
After the NRA rejected Mertz's application on Jan. 14, a new application was received by him on March 26, the affidavit says.
The new application states that Mertz received 16 hours of training by Monroe County EMA in April 2009; a Glock Armorer Course of eight hours of repairing and maintaining a Glock firearm, which was taken in Bethlehem on Feb. 20, 2008; and a typewritten letter was submitted alleging a house fire occurred.
Regarding the Monroe training, the line listing the instructor was left blank. The firm conducting the training was contacted, according to the affidavit, and said Mertz received training in April 2006 in Monroe County, but that no training classes were conducted in Pennsylvania in April 2009.
One record submitted by Mertz that was dated April 2009 allegedly contained a signature of "Greg Hoover." Hoover, who trained Mertz in 2006, left the employment of the training firm in 2006, it is reported, "further invalidating the certificate submitted by Marvin Mertz."
The agent for the attorney general reviewed records with the Carbon Communications Center from 2004 through January 2010.
"These records show no catastrophic fires or events at Marvin Mertz's residence," says the affidavit.
Regarding the Glock Armorer Course, it is alleged that Bethlehem Police Department did not host such an event on Feb. 20, 2008. In addition, the Glock firm responded to the attorney general's office that "Glock has no record of Marvin Z. Mertz taking their Armorer's Course."
It is also alleged "that the Glock Armorer's Course certificate that was submitted to the NRA by Marvin Z. Mertz was not authentic."