SANTA ANA (CBSLA) – A Santa Ana police officer who was injured during a pursuit back in 2017 has been charged with workers’ compensation fraud, accused of collecting disability even though he was healthy enough to go back on the job.
Jonathon Ridge, 39, drove to Utah, went to the beach and rode his motorcycle, all while telling the department he couldn’t return to work because of a wrist injury, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office reports.
He was charged Wednesday with four felony counts of insurance fraud.
Ridge lied to his doctor and the agency about the condition of a wrist injury in order to receive 100% of his normal pay, even though his activity showed he was healthy enough to return to work, the DA’s office said.
The situation began on Oct. 5, 2017, when Ridge was hurt during a chase involving a stolen car. He immediately went on disability, and about seven months later, in May of 2018, he underwent surgery on his left wrist. He wasn’t cleared to return to work until November of 2018.
However, due to the purported constraints of his injury, he was forced to immediately go back on disability, prosecutors said.
“The work restrictions were too severe for the city of Santa to accommodate, despite the city of Santa Ana having an extensive return-to-work program for injured employees,” the DA’s office wrote in a news release.
The city started conducting surveillance on him between March and May of 2019.
The city then launched an investigation which revealed that Ridge had started attending full-time college classes in June 2018, just weeks after undergoing his surgery. Investigators also learned that during that time he drove to Utah, went to the beach and rode his motorcycle, prosecutors said.
“Workers’ compensation fraud costs honest, hardworking businesses and government entities more than $30 billion a year,” O.C. DA 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.