By Stacy Kess
A former Delaware police officer accepted a plea deal Wednesday to charges of identity fraud and attempted forgery.
Under the terms of the deal, Patrick Gerke, 31, of Powell, will spend two years on community control and will spend 12 months in a diversion program, along with pay $1,000 fine and court costs. Gerke will also surrender his certification as a police officer and will not be able to serve as a police officer in Ohio.
Gerke was initially indicted by a Delaware County Grand Jury of identity fraud, a fifth-degree felony and unauthorized use of property, a first-degree misdemeanor Jan. 17. Licking County Prosecutor Kenneth Oswalt, the special prosecutor assigned to the case, dropped the charge of unauthorized use of property. A new charge of attempted forgery, a first degree misdemeanor, was brought against Gerke under the terms of the deal. Gerke pleaded guilty to both remaining charges.
“The most important part of this is to make sure (Gerke) never serves as a peace officer again,” Oswalt said.
Oswalt told the court the defendant used computers at the Delaware Police Department in mid-September to create an email address on Google Mail in the name of the a Columbus law firm. He then used the address to send an email to a woman with whom he was having an extra-marital affair in the name of one of the firm’s attorneys in an attempt to convince the woman that he was pursuing a divorce. Gerke also used the work computers between Aug. 24 and Sept. 17, 2013, to create false completed time sheets, which he then sent to his wife to show he was working at time he was not actually at work. Oswalt said these time sheets, though made to appear complete, were not turned in for pay.
Gerke was suspended without pay in November when he was initially charged; he subsequently resigned from the police department.
Defense attorney Dave Thomas said his client made a mistake.
“What’s important to (Gerke) that people know is he didn’t steal from anyone,” he said. “For eight years he served honorably as a police officer.”
Gerke is no longer employed as a police officer, but is otherwise employed.
“During a period of marital discord, he made some bad decisions,” Thomas said. “He’s going to do everything he can to put his life together.”
Oswalt said though it is difficult to see a victim of Gerke’s crimes, there are victims.
“The victims here are the other officers who do their job day in and day out,” he said.
The Delaware Police Department released a statement which said, in part: “The Delaware Police Department cooperated fully with the Prosecutor’s Office and outside investigators as they conducted this investigation. The Delaware Police Department is committed to providing a high level of service to our citizens and Gerke’s actions in this case do not reflect the Department’s values or mission.”
Oswalt was assigned as a special prosecutor due to the nature of the case which involves an employee of the City of Delaware. Visiting Judge Richard M. Markus was assigned to hear the case.
Gerke will serve his sentence in Licking County.
Stacy Kess can be reached at 740-363-4166, ext. 312, or on Twitter @StacyMKess.