Cop lied to get paid sick leave, worked on comic book: Feds




Three New York City corrections officers lied to get paid sick leave, prosecutors say. An officer was working on publishing a comic strip.

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A corrections officer is accused of lying to stay on paid sick leave for more than a year while pursuing his cartooning interests and raising more than $160,000.

Although he was able to do his job, investigators say the officer used his free time to work on a comic book.

He told the New York City Department of Correction he couldn’t work due to COVID-19 ‘vaccine side effects’ and submitted more than 100 fake medical notes to back up the allegations, a lawsuit claims. in federal court. Investigators say medical records later subpoenaed by the government contradict his “alleged infirmities”.

The man is one of three Rikers Island corrections officers who were arrested Nov. 10 for federal program fraud after illegally obtaining sick leave amid the prison’s “ongoing staffing crisis,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York announced in a press release. Rikers Island, an island between the Bronx and Queens, is home to New York’s main prison.

Attorney Robert Tsigler, whose office represents the officer, told McClatchy News in a statement that his client “vehemently denies the allegations” and “looks forward to the truth coming out in court and its full vindication.”

The two other accused officers, who are described as a couple, also raised tens of thousands of dollars for more than a year after lying to get sick leave, according to a separate complaint. A woman has finally admitted to falsifying medical notes supporting her injuries after she was caught traveling and partying, prosecutors say.

Benjamin Yaster, who is representing the female officer accused of raising $80,000 while on sick leave, declined a McClatchy News request for comment, and an attorney representing the other male officer did not immediately respond to a request. of comment.

The charges against the three officers come after the FBI and the New York City Department of Investigation began investigating those who “fraudulently obtained wages without working,” the two criminal complaints state.

City DOC Commissioner Louis A. Molina said in a statement provided to McClatchy News that “these correctional officers are in no way a reflection of the hard-working women and men who represent the boldest of New York… their conduct is unacceptable and a violation of their oath and duty to this city and our agency.

The case

Prosecutors say the Rikers Island corrections officer who claimed to be suffering side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine illegally collected his salary, more than $160,000, from March 2021 “to the present.”

He “repeatedly reported to the DOC that he was unable to work due to vertigo (a type of dizziness) and other alleged side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine,” the complaint states.

A study published in January looked at 33 patients who experienced dizziness after a COVID-19 vaccine and concluded that due to the small number of participants, “a definite causal relationship…cannot be inferred.” Other common side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine include fatigue, chills, muscle aches, nausea and more, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The officer is accused of submitting false medical notes, including real ones he received for other ailments but altered to support his claims, according to the complaint.

Meanwhile, investigators say the officer’s Instagram account revealed how he “used his sick leave to pursue his interest in comic book publishing,” the complaint states. This account “documented his work as a cartoonist working on a comic strip rather than working as a correctional officer”.

In April, investigators say the officer announced on Instagram that his comic was available for purchase.

A few days later, on April 21, he is accused of telling the DOC that he had a physical therapy appointment. However, the same day he posted a photo with a “fan” at a comic book store on Instagram, according to investigators. Additionally, a medical facility told investigators that the officer never showed up for a physiotherapy appointment, according to the complaint.

The officer’s fake medical notes detailed how he could not “stand, sit, drive or lift,” the complaint states. But during that time, investigators say he posted a YouTube video showing him lifting, moving and opening two large boxes containing rare comics that “he described as ‘heavy'”.

A month later, law enforcement officials caught the officer playing basketball and driving a vehicle in June, according to the complaint.

Prosecutors say the officer’s subpoenaed medical records revealed that he failed to attend several appointments he claimed to attend.

Ultimately, law enforcement attempted to interview the officer at his home in August, investigators say. Subsequently, he deleted his Instagram account before creating a new one.

On the Officer’s website for his comic, he describes himself as “a dreamer, storyteller, artist, and pure lover of the medium of comics.”

The other officers

As for the other two Rikers Island officers in a relationship who face federal program fraud charges, one received more than $80,000 in salary while the other received $140,000, according to prosecutors.

Before the female officer finally admitted to falsifying her medical records in support of alleged injuries, she bragged about ‘cheating’ her job and taking sick leave while messaging his family, says a complaint.

In a WhatsApp conversation, the officer said “home always paid, baby sick unlimited. Do like me! Live my best life,” according to the complaint.

Her fiancé, the other officer, is accused of saying he was ‘too injured to work for more than a year’ while collecting more than $140,000, prosecutors say. He would arrive at DOC medical appointments with a sling, cane, or boot to back up his claims.

However, he was caught doing home repairs, bowling and traveling “without any difficulty or assistance from equipment like a boot, sling or cane”, prosecutors said.

Photos obtained by investigators of him bowling and doing home repairs are included in the complaint.

The three officers face a potential maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the charges against them, according to the statement.

Julia Marnin is a McClatchy National Real-Time reporter covering the Southeast and Northeast while based in New York. She is an alumnus of the College of New Jersey and joined McClatchy in 2021. Previously she has written for Newsweek, Modern Luxury, Gannett and more.

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