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Deputy Is Accused of Disability Fraud

The 14-year veteran is arrested after collecting checks for almost two years, authorities say.

June 12, 2003|Daren Briscoe | Times Staff Writer

A veteran Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy was arrested Wednesday and accused of collecting paychecks for almost two years while on a fraudulent disability leave, officials said.

The deputy, David Sherr, was charged with one count of felony grand theft, five counts of insurance fraud and one count of attempted perjury after being arrested at his Long Beach home, said Deputy Dist. Atty. John Harrold.

Sherr, 37, has been with the department for 14 years, but has been on "total temporary disability" leave since July 2001, after claiming that he had injured his lower back in an altercation with a prisoner, Harrold said.

The district attorney's office has been investigating Sherr's claim for the last year after a referral by the Sheriff's Department, but Harrold would not discuss any evidence from the investigation.

Sherr's attorney, Nina Marino, said in court that Sherr would plead not guilty at an arraignment scheduled for Friday.

As a law enforcement officer, Sherr was entitled to collect 100% of his salary, tax free, for the first year of his disability. Prosecutors allege that the cost of his fraudulent claim and the subsequent investigation was at least $135,000.

Sherr's bail has been set at that amount. Harrold said Sherr must prove that any bail money he raises was not obtained through his "felonious conduct."

Tom Higgins, head deputy of the district attorney's workers' compensation division, said that, although most disability claims are valid, workers' compensation fraud is a major problem statewide and that generous benefits for law enforcement officers make fraudulent claims "very tempting."

"There's a fair amount of it," Higgins said. Because of the way workers' compensation for law enforcement officers is set up, "there's almost a sense of entitlement among some people or a sense that it's a non-listed fringe benefit."

Higgins said he has made prosecuting workers' compensation fraud a priority, establishing a unit dedicated to prosecuting such fraud in the public sector.

"Since it was established last year we've gotten as many referrals as we had in the previous eight years," Higgins said.

The charges against Sherr carry a maximum sentence of seven years, prosecutors said.

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