A former Livingston police officer pleaded no contest Friday to insurance fraud and was ordered to repay the state more than $14,000.
Sammy Galindo, 31, pleaded to a single felony count of workers' compensation fraud in Merced Superior Court before Judge Ronald W. Hansen. The judge ordered Galindo to serve two years of probation and pay $14,200 in restitution, authorities said.
"This sends the message that nobody is immune from the law and if you engage in fraud, you'll be prosecuted," said Walter Wall, the deputy district attorney who prosecuted the case.
After Friday's hearing, Galindo made his first restitution payment of $4,500, Wall said. Galindo's attorney, Marshall Hogkins, could not be reached for comment Friday.
According to the complaint, Galindo claimed he injured his right shoulder while making an arrest May 18, 2011. He was placed on disability leave. It was at least the third disability claim Galindo had made since he was hired in September 2006. Livingston Police officials found it suspicious, according to court records.
Galindo claimed he was unable to move his shoulder without pain, but video surveillance taken by private investigators on June 30, 2011, shows him performing heavy manual labor, including unloading a large tree from the bed of a pickup, digging holes in his yard and mowing his lawn.
Subsequent medical examinations showed no damage to Galindo's shoulder, according to court documents.
When investigators confronted Galindo, he initially denied performing any yardwork. As part of his plea, he acknowledged making false statements to detectives, prosecutors said.
According to court records, the Livingston Police Department fired Galindo in September 2012 for dishonesty and violating the Police Officer’s Code of Ethics. He lost his appeal during a mediation hearing that same year.
Police Chief Ruben Chavez declined to comment directly on the case Friday, citing personnel confidentiality laws. Speaking in general terms, Chavez acknowledged that cases involving lying police officers do more than harm the image law enforcement officers, they can undermine any investigations or convictions that involved those individuals.
"As officers, we're held to a very high standard of integrity and professionalism," Chavez said. "Anytime an issue of credibility comes up, it causes great concern. You cannot risk losing the trust of the community."
According to the state Department of Insurance, authorities prosecuted 1,332 false workers' compensation claims during fiscal year 2011-12, resulting in more than $341 million in bogus claims statewide.
Staff writer Rob Parsons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209)385-2482.