By Mark Lagerkvist | New Jersey Watchdog
It’s hard to believe, but former Camden city police sergeant Jeffrey Frett is taking another shot at a New Jersey disability pension.
A previous attempt by Frett to retire on disability involved gun play by his wife, a botched shooting and a guilty plea — results of a backfiring plot to cheat the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System.
The next round is scheduled for Monday at a PFRS board meeting, New Jersey Watchdog has learned. Frett’s history is almost certain to be a focal point as trustees consider his application for a lucrative accidental disability pension.
In November 2010, Frett had a scheme: While he was alone on patrol in Camden one night, his wife would drive up in a dark van. She would shoot him in the leg and escape as an unknown assailant. Available court documents do not mention Frett’s wife’s first name, and prosecutors have refused to answer N.J. Watchdog’s questions about her.
Injured in the line of duty, Frett would retire on disability at age 40 to collect a tax-free pension of roughly $50,000 a year — two-thirds of his salary — for the rest his life. And they would live happily ever after.
But that’s not what happened, according to Philly.com and other news outlets that covered the story.
“Mrs. Frett’s” aim was not accurate that fateful evening. The bullet she fired at her husband hit his pants leg but missed him. Over police radio, Frett reported he had been shot.
A nearby plainclothes officer stopped the getaway van and apprehended Mrs. Frett. Questioned by investigators, the couple’s denials soon unraveled. Their plan was publicly exposed.
Under a deal with the county prosecutor, Frett pleaded guilty to one count of disorderly conduct in May 2011. He was sentenced to a year of probation and ordered to pay $158 in fines and court costs. There is no record of charges filed against his wife.
In exchange, Frett gave up his job with Camden police, where he had worked nearly 17 years.
Three years later, Frett has resumed his quest for a disability pension. Since his application hasn’t been publicly released, it’s not clear what disability the former officer is claiming.
According to the PFRS pre-agenda, the injury was suffered in August 2008 — more than two years before Frett’s failed plot to be shot in the line of duty by his wife.
It raises a provocative question: If Frett had already suffered an on-duty 2008 injury that could qualify him for disability retirement, why did he ask his spouse to shoot him in 2010?
Frett is also asking the pension board to pay him disability benefits retroactive to January 2011 — a lump sum exceeding $160,000.
If Frett succeeds, he will join 5,500 other police and fire retirees who collect more than $200 million a year in PFRS disability pension checks.
A series of New Jersey Watchdog investigations have uncovered a pattern of disability pension abuses. For example:
- Joe Derrico was a roughhousing repo man on reality TV. He wrestled debtors on camera while collecting $69,703 a year as a disabled police patrolman with a bad leg.
- Timothy Carroll retired as a sheriff’s officer, claiming he was disabled by the trauma of seeing dead bodies at crime scenes. After he began collecting disability checks, Carroll started a business to clean up gory crime scenes.
- Christopher Onesti was deemed unable to handle a gun after the transit cop accidentally stapled his non-shooting hand. On disability pension since age 29, Onesti shoots a high-powered rifle for fun.
While some of the circumstances resemble slapstick comedy, the cases are serious drama for state taxpayers and pension funds.
Overall, New Jersey’s public retirement system faces a deficit of $51 billion, according to the state Treasury.