Retired Buffalo Police Officer Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Injured on Duty Program
|U.S. Attorney’s Office April 14, 2014|
BUFFALO, NY—U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that Patrick S. O’Mara, 52, of Buffalo, New York, pleaded guilty to wire fraud before Chief U.S. District Judge William M Skretny. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Trini E. Ross and John E. Rogowski, who are handling the case, stated that on February 16, 2004, the defendant, a Buffalo Police officer, was placed on Injured on Duty status (IOD) by the city of Buffalo. O’Mara was placed on IOD status for exacerbation of cervical and lumbar strains previously suffered while on duty. The defendant remained on IOD status until October 18, 2004, when he was ordered to return to light duty. O’Mara again claimed to have injured his right arm on March 21, 2005, while lifting two reams of copy paper. While the defendant did not report the injury to his superiors until 23 days later, the defendant was placed on IOD status once again on September 6, 2005, where he remained until he retired.
While the defendant’s primary care physician did not recommend that O’Mara return to work, several independent medical exams concluded that the defendant was not permanently disabled. One doctor noted that the defendant walked into his office using a cane but later witnessed O’Mara walking in the parking lot without any limp. In addition, the investigation determined that the defendant worked as a paid musical director and church organist during most, if not all, of the time that he has been on IOD status. Such work would have involved the use of his right arm.
The defendant retired from the Buffalo Police Department effective March 31, 2012, following an independent medical exam and administrative hearing. During an interview with special agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation on May 9, 2012, the defendant stated (among other things) that he was capable of performing light duty and had been playing the organ for a church. Nevertheless, the defendant stated there was no incentive to return to work on light duty status because “it is demeaning to sit at a desk and answer phones, and I consider it to be punishment,” and “the pay on IOD status, which is without taxes, is actually an incentive to stay off-duty in IOD status.”
“The IOD program is an important way in which injured officers continue to receive compensation for their difficult and oftentimes heroic work,” said U.S. Attorney Hochul. “When the program is abused, however, more than taxpayers suffer. Those officers who remain faithfully at their post are forced to work longer hours, more often, and in turn have an even greater chance of experiencing injury. While the vast majority of officers are honest and exemplify the highest ideals of their profession, this office will not hesitate to act when, as here, it finds evidence of fraud.”
O’Mara’s is one of two Buffalo Police officers charged with defrauding the IOD Program. On May 9, 2012, Robert Quintana, who has been on IOD status since March 2005, was arrested and also charged with mail and health care fraud. The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
The plea is the culmination of an investigation by special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Buffalo Police Department, under the direction of Commissioner Daniel Derenda.
Sentencing is scheduled July 30, 2014, at 10:00 a.m. before Judge Skretny.