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Sheriff's deputies busted for insurance fraud

July 18, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
We are learning about three Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies convicted of insurance fraud. The men did time at the Twin Towers jail.

One deputy actually worked in the jail. All three of them served out their sentences there. According to investigators, it's an indicator of a disturbing spike.

Arrested, convicted and jailed for insurance fraud: In three separate incidents, Los Angeles County deputies were fired after faking reports that their new personal cars had been stolen.

"It looked like deputies are in over their heads and are trying to find a way to dispose of these extra amenities," said Mike Gennaco, chief attorney of the Office of Independent Review.

And other cases are in the pipeline according to the Office of Independent Review, which monitors law enforcement.

"We have never have had more than one a year before this," said Gennaco.

The L.A. County Sheriff's Department is already calling for more training, reaching out to all deputies hit hard in this economy.

"Live within your means, spend what you have," said department spokesman Steve Whitmore. "Don't spend what you want, but spend what you have."

The report cites one case where a seven-year veteran had three vehicles, a substantial mortgage and three credit cards with balances of $1,000 each. His car was found torched.

In another case, investigators determined from cellphone records that a deputy drove his own car to Mexico and dumped it. It was not stolen, as he had reported.

The incidents follow deep cuts in overtime: $58 million. In previous years deputies had healthy salaries.

"You could be making 70-, $80,000 a year," said Whitmore. "Now with overtime, that could jump up to 120 or to 130, sometimes even up to 150, but all of that is all gone now."

None of the deputies charged cited loss of overtime as a reason, but the Office of Independent Review says there's evidence it was a factor and has flagged it.

"We're just sorry that careers have been lost and people have now convictions as a result of crossing that line," said Gennaco.

The Office of Independent Review wants the public to know that these incidents are still rare in a force that has 16,000 deputies.

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