Former Santa Ana Police Officer Jonathan Ridge was fired from the Santa Ana Police Department after admitting to worker compensation fraud on April 26. Ridge pled guilty in court on April 16 to several charges: one count of making a false statement to obtain compensation, and three counts of filing a fraudulent insurance benefit claim.
“Mr. Ridge’s criminal conduct is intolerable, erodes the public trust and violates the very oath he took to serve as a peace officer by the City of Santa Ana,” Santa Ana Police Department, Chief of Police David Valentin said in a statement via Twitter. “This conduct does not represent the ethical, principled, and hard-working employees of the Santa Ana Police Department.”
Ridge sustained an injury while on duty in pursuit of a suspect who was driving a stolen vehicle on Oct. 5, 2017. He then went on disability due to the injuries he had sustained.
While on leave in May 2018, Ridge had surgery to repair his injured wrist and his doctor recommended he stay out of work for up to six months. Ridge was cleared by his doctor to return to work in November 2018.
Ridge returned to work with several medical restrictions. However, the City of Santa Ana was unable to accommodate his restrictions despite having an extensive return-to-work program for injured employees. They continued paying Ridge’s disability payments, which comprised the full amount of working pay.
The Santa Ana Police Department began doing surveillance on Ridge in March 2019 after observing little to no improvement to his injury after 18 months off the job.
The investigation revealed that Ridge was engaged in activities beyond what his doctor imposed, including attending college classes weeks after his wrist surgery, taking a road trip to Utah, going to the beach and even riding a motorcycle.
Ridge received his full-time pay for over a year while not working despite being fully capable of returning to work.
“Workers’ compensation fraud costs honest, hardworking businesses and government entities more than $30 billion a year,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a press release. “We cannot allow those who commit workers’ compensation fraud to go unpunished because the financial cost to government and private business makes the cost of doing business more and more difficult.”
The former SAPD officer was sentenced to six months in jail and two years of probation.
Autumn Martin is a City News Intern for the spring 2021 quarter. She can be reached at email@example.com.