SANTA ANA, Calif. – A 39-year old Santa Ana police officer has been charged with committing workers’ compensation insurance fraud for continuing to accept his full pay without working even though he was physically capable of returning to work.
On October 5, 2017, Santa Ana Police Officer Jonathon Ridge was injured on duty while in pursuit of a suspect driving a stolen vehicle. On that day, October 5, 2017, Ridge went out on disability leave due to his injuries. On May 2, 2018, while still on leave, Ridge had surgery on his left wrist, and his doctor continued to keep him off work while he was recovering from the surgery.
In November 2018, Ridge was released by a doctor to return to work with restrictions. The work restrictions were too severe for the City of Santa to accommodate, despite the City of Santa Ana having an extensive return-to-work program for injured employees. This resulted in the City of Santa Ana being required to continue to pay Ridge Total Temporary Disability and for Ridge to receive disability payments through an insurance policy, resulting in Ridge receiving 100% of his pay without working.
From March 2019 to May 2019 the City of Santa Ana authorized surveillance on Ridge because he did not seem to improve despite having had surgery on his wrist in May 2018 for injuries sustained in the on-duty collision 18 months earlier.
The surveillance and subsequent investigation found that Ridge was engaging in activities well beyond what the doctor had imposed. Ridge began attending college classes nearly full-time beginning in June 2018 – just weeks after his surgery. Additionally, he packed up his car and drove to Utah, went to the beach, and drove his motorcycle. Ridge failed to disclose to his doctor or to the City of Santa Ana what he was actually capable of doing. This deprived the doctor of the opportunity to impose realistic work restrictions that the City of Santa Ana could accommodate. Instead, Ridge continued to receive 100% of his pay without working even though he was capable of returning to work in a modified position.
Ridge has been charged with four felony counts of insurance fraud. He faces a maximum sentence of eight years in state prison if convicted on all counts.
“Workers’ compensation fraud costs honest, hardworking businesses and government entities more than $30 billion a year,” said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer. “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.”
Deputy District Attorney Pamela Leitao of the Insurance Fraud Unit is prosecuting this case.