Former city police officer pleads guilty to $30K in workers' comp fraud

Ex-Baltimore cop who got new job pleads guilty to workers' comp fraud.

A former Baltimore police officer who now works for the Montgomery County police department pleaded guilty Thursday felony workers' compensation fraud and perjury.

Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams sentenced Officer Gilbert L. Payne to a three-year suspended sentence and 300 hours of community service. The judge also ordered Payne to pay $30,000 in restitution.

After the hearing, Payne's attorney Warren Brown said the officer will submit a letter of resignation to Montgomery County today. He said his client was declining to comment.

"It was a situation where he was trying to get money he wasn't entitled to," Brown said. "Now he's got to figure out a way to pay to back it back. Obviously, his career in law enforcement is over."

State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt said the matter was referred to the state prosecutor's office by the Baltimore City Inspector General.

"Providing perjurious testimony and cheating on workers' compensation is always wrong, but it's particularly egregious when it is committed by a sworn police officer," Davitt said.

A Baltimore Sun analysis this year of hundreds of documents obtained through Public Information Act requests, as well as court records, showed numerous instances of abuse in Maryland's workers' compensation system, which made $395 million in awards in 2013. In one high-profile case, city Detective Anthony Fata sought benefits worth about $78,000 after being shot, but prosecutors said he had shot himself. He was convicted of perjury and fraud.

Several months ago, Baltimore Inspector General Robert H. Pearre Jr. decided to dedicate an agent solely to investigating workers' compensation and disability fraud within Baltimore's police and fire departments, he wrote in a recent report.

Payne left the Baltimore Police Department on a full disability pension in 2007 after being injured in a car crash, records show. Prosecutors alleged that Payne falsely testified under oath at a September 2008 workers' compensation hearing that he was not employed at the time, nor had he been employed since retiring from the city police department. In fact, he was working full time as a sworn Towson University police officer.

After giving false testimony Payne received more than $30,000 in workers' compensation payments, records show.

A search of online records shows that Payne has filed eight workers compensation claims from 2005 until last year, raising some red flags at the state's Workers' Compensation Commission.

During a hearing in front of the commission last year, a commissioner expressed surprise that Payne was employed in Montgomery County due to his earlier awards for purportedly severe injuries.

"I'd have to say I am really disappointed that I [gave] him such a large award when he's now back to work as a police officer," Commissioner Maureen Quinn said. "This is the very kind of thing I try to avoid."

lbroadwater@baltsun.com

Twitter.com/lukebroadwater

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