ICU Update: “Disabled” NJ Police Officer’s Pension Revoked
In ICU’s May 2013 Newsletter, we reported the story of Joseph Derrico, a retired Hamilton Township, New Jersey police officer, collecting a disability pension of about $70,000 per year. New Jersey Watchdog reported that after Derrico’s retirement in 2010, he had starred in truTV’s “Bear Swamp Recovery,” a reality “repo” series that claims to be the “baddest towing team in Jersey.” However, the “Monster Truck Showdown” episode, which aired approximately one year after the receipt of Derrico’s first pension check, featured Derrico chasing a monster truck on foot and throwing the driver out of the truck to the ground, even though Derrico is “totally and permanently disabled” by a leg injury.
Unfortunately for Derrico, the New Jersey state pension board has intervened and stripped him of his nearly $70,000-per-year tax-free pension on July 15th, 2013. He has also been cleared to return to work for the Hamilton Township police force.
John Sierchio of the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System board of trustees said “We had to stop his pension. Otherwise, this would go on in limbo forever. And he would be collecting a pension, not being disabled and pretty much laughing at everybody.”
Derrico may have to find employment elsewhere, however, according to Mark Lagerkvist of NJ Watchdog. When Derrico retired in 2010, he had been charged with theft by receiving stolen property, a felony charge in the state of New Jersey. In a shady deal, the Mercer County Prosecutor, Joseph Bocchini gave Derrico a “get out of jail free” card after he agreed to leave Hamilton police department and “not seek re-employment there.”
According to Sierchio, “In my opinion, if the prosecutor would have done his job, there wouldn’t be an issue here,” referring to the fact that if Derrico had been convicted of theft by receiving stolen property or had been fired by the Hamilton Police department, he could have lost his pension. “Your report caught them and now everybody has egg on their faces,” said Sierchio to New Jersey Watchdog.
Nonetheless, Sierchio and the rest of the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System’s board of trustees and state medical experts have established that Derrico is clearly not disabled, and the following scenarios are ahead on the horizon:
Derrico may appeal the decision (which could take months, even years).
If the appeal rules in favor of Derrico, Hamilton Township could be obligated to rehire him, or the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System could be forced to pay almost $6,000 a month in disability checks to a completely capable individual.
Hopefully, the ruling goes against Derrico, that is if he chooses to appeal.