A Rat by Any Other Name

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It’s not every day that you hear of a fraudster who is caught red-handed, dressed as a rodent. According to a recent Los Angeles Times report, one California man is paying a hefty price for dressing up like a hamster and dancing in a car commercial (yeah, we’ve all bopped to that beat), while simultaneously collecting workers’ compensation benefits.

It all began when the 29-year-old dancer incurred injuries at a theater company, after a piece of the building’s ceiling detached and hit him. A subsequent doctor’s visit determined that he had an irritated eye, a sprain and a strain, which allowed him to file claim for temporary disability benefits from the California Employment Development Department. (How much cash could a dancer steal if a hamster could stash cash?) The agency continued to extend these claims, as the dancer declared that he remained unemployed and did not have any source of income. In reality, he had already returned to the stage and screen, long before the benefits ended.

Despite the fact that he had previously worked as a backup dancer for big-name celebrities, the man collected a total of $51,000 in workers’ compensation benefits. But everything came crashing down on that fateful hamster day, in which he was caught being paid to dance in an automobile commercial. He soon landed before a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge and pleaded no contest to one count of insurance fraud and one count of making false statements regarding aid. The judge sentenced him to three months of electronic monitoring (not an ideal accessory for a dancer or a rodent), to perform 400 hours of community service and to pay upwards of $24,000 in restitution.

Temporary workers’ compensation funds are meant to provide emergency assistance to employees whose on-the-job injuries prevent them from earning an income. Shame on this hamster dancer for stealing from some of America’s most vulnerable citizens, and bravo to the state of California for holding him accountable for his crimes.

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article titled, ”Kia dancing hamster pleads no contest in disability fraud case,” written by Sarah Parvini and published by the Los Angeles Times on January 22, 2016.

While he was claiming disability insurance, Leroy Barnes was busy busting a move — as a hip, dancing hamster.

On Friday, authorities announced that the dancing-rodent impersonator had pleaded no contest to one count each of insurance fraud and false statements regarding aid.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Norm Shapiro sentenced Barnes to 90 days of electronic monitoring. He also was ordered to perform 400 hours of community service and pay more than $24,000 in restitution.

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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.