Youth minister charged with stealing from church
Mertes served at Mary, Mother
The former youth minister of a large Burnsville church is accused of stealing more than $8,000 by depositing about 40 checks written to the church into his personal accounts.
John Glenn Mertes, 40, of Burnsville, was charged March 27 with felony theft by swindle.
Mertes was the youth minister at Mary, Mother of the Church for at least a decade, said Maggie Sonnek, communications coordinator for the East Cliff Road church, which has about 7,000 parishioners.
The church fired Mertes in February, Sonnek said. It was a “tough decision, but it had to happen,” she said.
Armed with evidence that the checks had gone into Mertes’ accounts, Burnsville police investigators questioned him on Feb. 23, according to the criminal complaint in Dakota County District Court.
After first denying he’d wrongfully deposited checks, Mertes was shown a spreadsheet record of the 40 checks, according to the complaint.
He “looked down at the table and his eyes became water,” the complaint said. “Mertes then stated that he has been under financial stress. Mertes then admitted those checks appeared to be accurate and that none of the money was ever given back to the church.”
The investigation began on Jan. 18, when police were called to the church on a report of possible theft. An administrator and an accountant at Mary, Mother said a $500 check “was initially not included” from a November 2011 church fundraiser that Mertes had supervised.
Further investigation showed the check had been endorsed by Mertes and deposited into his account through an ATM, the complaint said.
A part-time accountant for the church who was familiar with Mertes’ handwriting confirmed it was his endorsement, the complaint said.
On Feb. 8, an investigator executed a search warrant on Mertes’ personal bank records. He determined some 40 checks written to the church had been deposited into Mertes’ accounts from August through December of 2011.
An investigator spoke on March 14 with Mertes’ wife, who was also listed on the accounts. She said her husband handled all the finances and deposits, and “the only thing she ever used was a debit card.”
Mertes was arrested March 28 and released on bond with conditions. He is excluded from the church and prohibited from taking a job involving financial transactions.
A court hearing is scheduled for July 9. The charge carries up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $6,000 to $20,000.