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One of the dancing hamsters from a Kia Motors Corp. commercial — or rather, a dancer who dressed in a hamster costume for the ad — has been charged with insurance fraud for allegedly spinning off with ill-gotten workers compensation and disability benefits, according to the California Department of Insurance.
Leroy Barnes, 27, was struck by a piece of ceiling that fell on him during a sound check for a John Cossette Productions job in June 2010, and received $51,000 in disability and comp benefits from September 2010 to September 2011, the insurance department said in a statement Wednesday.
While Mr. Barnes said he was not working while receiving disability benefits, he starred as a dancing hamster in a 2011 commercial for South Korean carmaker Kia, the department said. He allegedly also worked as a backup dancer for Madonna and other stars during the time he was receiving disability payments.
Mr. Barnes has pleaded not guilty to the fraud charges. If convicted, he faces up to five and a half years in jail and restitution of nearly $74,300, the insurance department said.