Many retirees are making their way back into the office because they want to work, boost their retirement incomes, or balance the fulfillment of holding a part-time job with the flexibility of semi-retired status. However, when people retire because of a disability, they are only eligible for benefits because they are unable to work. Nonetheless, NorthJersey.com tells the story of a man who was discovered working as a police officer in Georgia despite collecting more than $321,000 in disability pension payments after retiring from a police department in New Jersey. (Unlike many baby boomers, this man’s plan to work through his retirement went bust.)
The story states that this man served as an officer at a northern New Jersey police department for nearly ten years. (So this was not a rookie mistake.) He retired by obtaining ordinary disability retirement, which he received by substantiating that medical and stress-related conditions left him totally and permanently disabled and thus unable to work. Upon retiring, he moved his family to Georgia, and about one year after his disability was approved, he started a succession of desk jobs in sheriff’s offices throughout the southern state. (Reportedly, he thought desk jobs did not count as work.) He even reportedly applied to work as a special agent with the South Georgia Drug Task Force just four days after his New Jersey disability pension came through.
The fraudulent flatfoot received his disability pension over the course of more than seven years, collecting about $3,614 per month from the New Jersey Police and Firemen’s Retirement System, totaling $321,008 over the course of his conspiracy, in addition to his regular salary as an officer in Georgia. The state Division of Pensions and Benefits discovered that the former New Jersey policeman was working in Georgia through an anonymous tip. (Kudos to whomever blew the whistle.) With his pension under review, the officer lied to his psychological evaluator, stating that he had barely worked since he began collecting his disability pension. In fact, the story details that had been employed for all but five months since he began working in Georgia. He claimed to have taken the positions in Georgia because of a financial predicament, and that he disclosed to all of his employers that he was accepting a New Jersey pension. (Then why lie when he got caught? Cue the theme from ‘Dragnet.’)
Although this former pension collector already repaid $100,000, that evidently did little to earn favor from the judge. With a plea of guilty to third-degree theft by deception, the 44-year-old man was sentenced to serve 364 days in county jail and to pay $321,008 in restitution. He was also permanently barred from public employment in the state of New Jersey. (APB to all other the states – make sure you are paying attention)
This former police officer stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from a pension fund meant for fellow retirees who spent their careers serving the New Jersey public. Unfortunately, this man spent the last few years of his career serving his pocketbook. Let his verdict be a warning for people looking to make money off of public pensions – it’s a bad beat.