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Hockey-playing state worker fouls New York comp system

Hockey-playing state worker fouls New York comp system

An aide for a state youth detention center in New York is facing time in the workers-compensation-fraud penalty box — a.k.a. jail — after he claimed a debilitating injury kept him from doing his job but was caught playing competitive ice hockey, according to the Rome Sentinel. 

Samuel Spina, 45, of Rome, was charged with third-degree grand larceny, third-degree insurance fraud, and three counts of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing, all felonies, the newspaper reported on Thursday. 

Mr. Spina, a Youth Division aide for the state Office of Children and Family Service’s secure Taberg Residential Center for Girls in Oneida County, reported a debilitating knee injury at work in September 2015, and that the injury prevented him from working, the newspaper reported.

Over the following three months, Mr. Spina told physicians on three separate occasions that the injury prevented him from returning to work, Inspector General Leahy Scott told a reporter. 

Meanwhile, investigators found that within two weeks of the reported injury, and for the following months, Mr. Spina was spotted playing ice hockey as a goalie in numerous games for the Tighty Whities, an amateur hockey team in central New York.

Spina returned to work in January 2016, after receiving nearly four months of workers comp benefits. He is now accused of stealing more than $3,000 in improper benefit payments and for repeatedly asserting an inability to work over the period he was collecting benefits, investigators told reporters. 

“This defendant is charged with abusing a system meant to protect honest hard-working employees by fraudulently taking extended leave at full pay for a packed hockey schedule and other personal strenuous activities while claiming he was too incapacitated to work,” the inspector general told reporters. “I will continue to use my office to fight fraud against the workers compensation system and to hold accountable any government employee who violates the public trust.” 



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