Santa Ana, CA (WorkersCompensation.com) – A California police officer has been charged with workers’ compensation fraud for allegedly collecting disability benefits even though he was healthy enough to go back to work.
Jonathan Ridge, 39, worked for the Santa Ana Police Department when he was injured during a pursuit involving a stolen car in 2017. He was immediately put on disability and in May 2018, had surgery on his left wrist. By November 2018, he had been cleared to return to work.
But because of the constraints of his injury, the department was unable to accommodate his needs and he was placed back on disability, the city said.
“The work restrictions were too severe for the city of Santa Ana to accommodate, despite the city of Santa Ana having an extensive return-to-work program for injured employees,” the Orange County District Attorney’s office wrote in a news release.
In March of 2019, the city of Santa Ana authorized surveillance of Ridge, and later an investigation of Ridge’s actions while he received 100 percent of his salary while not working.
Investigators found that Ridge was allegedly capable of doing far more than he let his doctors know.
“The surveillance and subsequent investigation found that Ridge was engaging in activities well beyond what the doctor had imposed. Ridge began attending college classes nearly full-time beginning in June 2018 – just weeks after his surgery,” investigators said. “Additionally, he packed up his car and drove to Utah, went to the beach, and drove his motorcycle. Ridge failed to disclose to his doctor or to the City of Santa Ana what he was actually capable of doing. This deprived the doctor of the opportunity to impose realistic work restrictions that the City of Santa Ana could accommodate. Instead, Ridge continued to receive 100% of his pay without working even though he was capable of returning to work in a modified position.”
“Workers’ compensation fraud costs honest, hardworking businesses and government entities more than $30 billion a year,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer wrote in a statement. “We cannot allow those who commit workers’ compensation fraud to go unpunished because the financial cost to government and private business makes the cost of doing business more and more difficult.”
It is unclear if Ridge has been dismissed from the department, or exactly when he stopped receiving his disability pay.
He faces a maximum sentence of eight years in prison if convicted as charged.