A police officer in Santa Ana, CA, is accused of committing workers’ compensation insurance fraud for allegedly continuing to accept his full salary without working, even though he was physically able to return to work.
Jonathon Ridge, 39, was charged with four counts of insurance fraud. Attorney information wasn’t available.
According to the complaint, the accused police officer was injured on duty on October 5, 2017, while pursuing a suspect driving a stolen vehicle. On that same day, he took disability leave due to his injuries. A few months later on May 2, 2018, the accused reportedly had surgery on his left wrist while still on leave. His doctor kept him out of work while he recovered from the surgery, the complaint states.
His doctor allowed him to return to work with restrictions in November 2018. However, those restrictions were purportedly too severe for the City of Santa Ana to accommodate, even though the city has an extensive return-to-work program for injured workers. It is not known what types of restrictions were originally imposed.
This resulted in the city being required to continue to pay the police officer temporary total disability in addition to the disability payments he received through an insurance policy. As a consequence, he received 100 percent of his pay without having to do any work.
The city authorized surveillance on the accused between March 2019 to May 2019 because his condition allegedly did not seem to improve even though he had received surgery in May 2018. At that point, he was collecting disability payments for an injury he suffered while on the job 18 months earlier.
The surveillance and ensuing investigation found that he performed activities that went beyond the restrictions his doctor had imposed. He allegedly started attending full-time college classes in June 2018—less than a month after his surgery. He took a road trip to Utah, rode his motorcycle, and went to the beach, according to the complaint.
The complaint accuses the police officer of failing to inform his doctor or the City of Santa Ana of what he was actually capable of doing after the surgery, which prevented the doctor from imposing realistic work restrictions the city could accommodate. The accused continued to receive his full pay without working even though he was capable of returning to work in a modified position.
“Workers’ compensation fraud costs honest, hardworking businesses and government entities more than $30 billion a year,” said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer. “We cannot allow those who commit workers’ compensation fraud to go unpunished because the financial cost to government and private business makes the cost of doing business more and more difficult.”
The police officer’s case is being prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Pamela Leitao of the Insurance Fraud Unit. If convicted on all four felony counts, he faces a maximum sentence of up to eight years in prison.
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