LAPD sergeant arrested on suspicion of workers' compensation fraud
This post has been corrected. See note at the bottom for details.
A veteran Los Angeles police sergeant was arrested on suspicion of felony fraud after department officials said Thursday that he altered a note from his doctor allowing him to collect pay and stay off work beyond the time to which he was entitled.
Juan Fernandez, a 24-year veteran assigned to Mission Division, surrendered to authorities. The LAPD Professional Standards Bureau alleged several violations, including two felonies of workers’ compensation insurance fraud and insurance Fraud.
The sergeant was booked Wednesday at the Los Angeles County Men's Central Jail in lieu of $30,000 bail. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of up to seven years in state prison, and/or a fine of up to $150,000.
"The sergeant will get his day in court," said LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith. "But we have a very aggressive workers' comp fraud unit that investigates any hint of fraud or abuse of the system."
Fernandez began taking time off after filing a claim on May 13, 2010, the department said in a statement. He did not return to work until March 27, 2011. Citing confidentiality rules, LAPD declined to say what injury or illness led to the leave.
Further investigation found that Fernandez had "submitted an altered doctor's note that allowed him to stay off work beyond the prescribed period and continued to receive compensation he was not entitled to."
The LAPD began investigating Fernandez after he submitted inconsistent doctors' notes, according to a department statement.
Neither Fernandez nor his attorney could be immediately reached for comment.
The Workers' Compensation Fraud Unit was created in 2008 to investigate employees who could be involved in workers’ compensation fraud or benefit abuse. Last year, the unit helped convict a detective involved in fraud. He ultimately pleaded guilty and paid restitution of $105,000, officials said.
[For the Record, 1:41 p.m. Jan. 12: An earlier version of this post quoted LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith as saying “we have a very digressive workers' comp fraud unit.” He actually said “we have a very aggressive workers' comp fraud unit.”]
-- Andrew Blankstein