A former Camden firefighter -- who claimed to twice be injured in fire truck crashes while on duty -- stole more than $82,000 by fraudulently collecting a state disability pension while working as a martial arts instructor and participating in competitive mixed martial arts, said federal prosecutors.
Prosecutors charged Shane Streater, of Camden, with theft by deception, and he could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted. The complaint was made public Wednesday, and it wasn't known if Streater has retained a lawyer.
"It’s outrageous that this former firefighter was showing off his prowess in mixed martial arts, all the while that he was lying about a disability and collecting benefits from the firemen’s pension system," said Acting Attorney General Hoffman."“His conduct was a slap in the face of his colleagues in the fire department, who continued to risk their lives to protect the public and honestly earn their pay."
Officials say the 40-year-old Streater applied for an accidental disability pension in February 2009, claiming he was disabled due to two accidents while on duty. In each incident, he claimed to have injured his back and/or neck.
Based largely on statements from Streater regarding his inability to engage in physical activity, an independent doctor found he had a total and permanent disability. The doctor, though, concluded that his disability was from a preexisting condition and not work related.
The New Jersey Police and Firemen's Retirement System Board awarded Streater an ordinary disability pension in January 2010. Streater appealed that ruling, insisting his disability was work-related and he was entitled to an accidental disability pension, which is untaxed and pays two-thirds of the beneficiary's salary. An ordinary disability pension pays 40 percent of salary and is taxed.
State officials later learned Streater was teaching jiu jitsu two or more times a week at a mixed martial arts academy. They also found an online video of him participating in a highly competitive tournament Grapplers Quest Mixed Martial Arts Tournament in June 2010. YouTube video shows him losing a match -- he still was awarded a bronze medal at the event.
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The PFRS Board revoked Streater's disability pension in April 2012, but he already had collected a total of $82,488 in benefits.
“This type of fraud is extremely costly to our public pension systems, which must guard every dollar to pay legitimate beneficiaries,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “If anyone knows of someone who is feigning a disability and wrongfully collecting pension benefits, we urge them to contact us confidentially so we can take action.”