Mass. Man Gets Kicked in Wallet; Ordered to Pay $126,000 for Reported Scam

May 25, 2004

A Fall River, Massachusetts man who was employed as a corrections officer at MCI-Bridgewater has been sent to jail and ordered to pay restitution after reportedly pleading guilty to charges he collected more than $82,500 in workers’ compensation benefits while simultaneously running a karate school, Attorney General Tom Reilly announced.

Ricci DeGaetano, 37, of Fall River, in March pleaded guilty to two counts each of workers’ comp fraud and larceny over $250 by false pretense. Suffolk Superior Court Judge Peter Lauriat sentenced DeGaetano to serve six months in the House of Correction to be followed by five years of probation.

As part of his sentence, DeGaetano was ordered to pay restitution of $126,039. He must also forfeit his right to state retirement benefits and accidental disability retirement.

DeGaetano was injured after he slipped and fell on the job at MCI-Bridgewater in January 1997. DeGaetano remained out of work and was paid workers’ comp benefits from January 1997 through June 1998.

Investigators found that in March 1998, while still alleging disability, DeGaetano opened Complete Karate, a karate school in Swansea. DeGaetano, a black belt in karate, reportedly used his wife as a straw owner to represent his interest and served as head instructor, teaching karate to both children and adults.

During the time in which he was operating his school and teaching karate, DeGaetano was paid more than $7,300 in workers’ comp benefits on the 1997 workers’ comp claim.

After returning to work as a prison guard in June 1998, DeGaetano suffered another disabling work-related injury as a result of an inmate altercation on October 4, 1998. He did not return to work for three years during which time he was paid more than $139,000 in workers’ comp benefits and assault pay for his injury.

During the entire three-year period for which DeGaetano received benefits for this alleged disability, he continued to operate and teach at Complete Karate on nearly a daily basis.

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