By Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times
Jurors took half an hour Tuesday to convict a veteran Los Angeles police officer of workers' compensation fraud after seeing surveillance videotape of her working at Dodger Stadium as she was collecting temporary disability payments.
Mariana Carmen Gallegos, who was assigned to the LAPD's internal affairs unit, which investigates officer wrongdoing, faces up to five years in prison. She will be fired unless her conviction is overturned on appeal, the LAPD said.
The verdict marks the first time that an LAPD officer has been convicted of workers' compensation fraud, prosecutors said. No LAPD officer has been convicted in Los Angeles County of a felony in five years.
Gallegos, an officer for nine years, was convicted of concealing information and workers' compensation fraud, Deputy Dist. Atty. Renee Korn said. A grand theft charge was dismissed during the trial.
"This was a case about greed. She became too greedy," Korn said. "She lied about what she was doing and repeatedly lied in court."
Gallegos' attorney could not be reached for comment.
The LAPD discovered that Gallegos was working as a security guard at Staples Center and Dodger Stadium in the summer of 2003 while she was on total temporary disability and collecting $11,000 in benefits.
An LAPD surveillance team captured Gallegos walking and standing while working as an armed guard for Dodger Stadium concessions.
Korn said such work was more physically demanding than her LAPD desk assignment.
"I am gratified by today's jury verdict," said Police Chief William J. Bratton. "The LAPD will not tolerate any abuse of the workers' compensation system. As we did in the case of Ms. Gallegos, we will aggressively seek out those officers who compromise the safety of the public and their fellow officers by failure to report to duty when they are physically capable of performing their duty."
On Aug. 14, 2003, a doctor placed Gallegos on temporary total disability because of an injury that she had suffered on duty five years earlier. Later, an LAPD supervisor who worked a second job at Staples noticed her name on a Staples shift roster.
At trial, Gallegos insisted that she was unaware that she could not have other jobs while out injured, Korn said.
The conviction, Korn said, means that Gallegos will lose her job.
"As a police officer who cannot be truthful, she won't be upholding the law and serving the community anymore," she said.