Iowa Department of Public Safety
215 East 7th Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50319
www.dps.state.ia.us

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For immediate release: Alex Murphy
  DCI Public Information Officer
Investigative Operations
Iowa Department of Public Safety
Tuesday, April 27, 2010 amurphy@dps.state.ia.us
(515) 443-3014 - cell
(515) 725-6189 - office

Van Meter Police Chief Charged

Van Meter, IOWA-After a five month investigation, Van Meter Police Chief Michael A. Merritt is being charged with one count of Felonious Misconduct in Office, a Class D Felony, and one count of Insurance Fraud, a Class D Felony.  Merritt turned himself into a Division of Criminal Investigation agent this morning in Des Moines and was then transported to the Polk County Jail.

These charges stem from an investigation that began when the Iowa Department of Transportation received a complaint Merritt may be involved in fraudulent activities related to a salvage vehicle theft inspection program.  Through their cooperative investigative work, law enforcement discovered Merritt was not conducting the necessary law enforcement database checks for stolen parts, which is required to complete a certified inspection.  Law enforcement also discovered that Merritt was charging an extra ten dollar fee to conduct the examinations and accepting cash payment in lieu of the required check or money order.  Merritt later admitted he was keeping the additional ten dollars along with any cash collected from the inspections.

Additionally, during his employment with the City of Van Meter, Merritt claimed workers compensation benefits in the spring of 2009.  He did not disclose the additional income received from the salvage theft examinations as was required by the insurance company.

In light of the ongoing criminal investigation and pending court proceedings, the City of Van Meter placed Merritt on paid administrative leave on March 26, 2010.

The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation worked this case in cooperation with the Iowa State Patrol-Vehicle Theft Unit, Iowa Insurance Fraud Bureau, Iowa Department of Transportation, and the Polk County Attorney’s Office.

It should be noted a suspect is considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

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Note: A criminal charge is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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