A man in FBI custody on suspicion of operating a Ponzi scheme is also a suspect in the recent discovery of pipe bombs inside self-storage units in two states. Investigators have named Istvan “Steve” A. Merchenthaler a suspect in the storage of pipe bombs discovered two weeks ago at a North State Storage facility in Wilmington, N.C., and a cache of pipe bombs found at an unnamed facility in Pennsylvania.
Merchenthaler, 42, was already in custody in Philadelphia on charges of operating a Ponzi scheme that defrauded $2 million from investors, when investigators last week connected him to the pipe bombs. The connection between both investigations is unclear.
The FBI has not released the number of pipe bombs found at either self-storage location, but officials have said at least two of the bombs found in the North Carolina storage unit were purposefully detonated.
In the North Carolina case, the same person who rented the storage unit was traced to a rental house in New Hanover County, N.C. That man, named Charles Shreiner, was evicted from the home after owing more than $4,000 in delinquent rent. It is unclear if Shreiner and Merchenthaler are the same person, although Merchenthaler allegedly used the initials “C.S.” as an alias in the Ponzi scheme, according to a federal indictment.
Merchenthaler was jailed Feb. 15 by the Harford, Md., Sheriff’s Department on suspicion of motor-vehicle theft and stealing between $10,000 and $100,000. Harford County District Court Judge Victor Butanis released Merchenthaler into the custody of federal marshals on Feb. 19.