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Sheriff's Deputy Faces Fraud Charges

October 25, 2002|Richard Winton | Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy was charged Thursday with six felony counts for allegedly filing a false workers' compensation claim.

Robert Justin, 36, who prosecutors say was hurt playing football rather than while on duty, was booked at County Jail with bail set at $30,000. If convicted, he faces up to five years in state prison, prosecutors said.

The district attorney's office charged Justin with five counts of insurance fraud and one count of grand theft in connection with his June 2001 claim for workers' compensation benefits.

"This is probably the first time I am aware we've ever charged a sheriff's deputy for workers' comp fraud," said Tom Higgins, head deputy of the district attorney's workers' compensation fraud unit. "I think this arrest is very important for Los Angeles County and specifically the Sheriff's Department. It shows vigor to pursue these cases that was not there before."

Justin filed a claim last year, saying he was injured when his sheriff's all-terrain vehicle was struck by another deputy's ATV. Higgins said, however, that prosecutors will present evidence showing that Justin was injured during a football practice.

"There were witnesses at both events, and those witnesses contradict the statements of the deputy," Higgins said

A Sheriff's Department internal probe led to an investigation by the state Department of Insurance, and the subsequent decision to file the charges.

"We have cooperated fully through this investigation, and again say that it was this department -- the L.A. County Sheriff's Department -- that uncovered the wrongdoing and sought out prosecution," said Sheriff's Sgt Joe Efflandt. He said he was unsure of Justin's status with the department, but any deputy charged with a felony can be suspended without pay.

In 1990, Deputy Deron M. McBee, who resigned from the force and applied for a permanent disability pension while working as a Chippendales exotic dancer, was sentenced to three years' probation and ordered to perform 200 hours of community service for attempted grand theft.

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