It was announced this week that a Sarasota, FL police officer who was under investigation for workers' compensation fraud resigned to avoid being fired by the department.
I don't know the particulars of his case, but living in Sarasota I can tell you it must be serious. It takes an act of God in this city to fire a policeman, and even then only if the police union approves God's act, so if they were actually going to be successful in terminating him I would suspect they may have had something.
The 21 year veteran had claimed that he was injured when an 850-pound police motorcycle slipped off its kickstand and fell onto his leg. He claimed the accident produced a blood clot, which responded to appropriate treatment.
The problem was investigators became suspicious when they learned he had participated in a 30-mile motocross race while off duty, and ostensibly, under treatment for his injury. This led them to examine surveillance tapes of the garage where the police motorcycles are stored. The officer was not seen on the video at any time during the dates he told investigators the accident occurred.
From that point internal investigators say his story began to change, and his various versions were never supported by the evidence. A report issued by the investigators, which was sent to the State Attorney's office for review, said the officer “gave false and misleading information throughout the investigation”.
Here is the amazing part, at least to me. Assistant State Attorney Karen Fraivillig has declined to prosecute the officer for insurance fraud, saying that “workers' compensation fraud requires criminal intent”. She said that without a confession from the officer or “the testimony of someone who witnessed his injury”, she would be unable to prove he made false statements in order to receive workers' compensation benefits.
Okey, dokey then. Let me make sure I've got this straight. If you do not confess to a crime, or no one “witnesses the event”, then it is not prosecutable. Here is a simple question: What if the “event” never happened, and therefore could not be witnessed? Simply filing a false statement and making a claim about that would not, in the states view, be criminal? How screwed up is that?
Never mind that Fraivillig said this while noting that the officer lied during his interviews with investigators. Saying, in her memo to those investigators, “Each interview was inconsistent with the preceding interview, and all interviews of the defendant were internally inconsistent”.
I realize I am not the brightest bulb on the tree, but what am I missing here? What about the video cameras? Did they not “witness” the lack of his very presence at the time he claimed to be hurt? Would someone who was not a 21 year veteran of a law enforcement agency receive the same treatment?
I doubt it.
Not to be deterred, the officer, while disagreeing with the decision to pursue his termination, has decided not to fight it. He said, “It ain’t worth it. They gave me a choice, contest it and if something goes wrong, I’d lose my pension and not be employable. I’ll take my pension and go somewhere else and apply my knowledge where it’s wanted.”
Where it is wanted, indeed. Perhaps a career in motorcycle safety lies in his future. Just make sure there are no cameras next time. Clearly, the less witnesses the better.