A Santa Barbara Police Department officer who participated in weight-lifting and strength competitions after taking worker’s compensation entered an open plea Friday to four counts of felony worker’s compensation fraud, according to the District Attorney’s office.
Anderson also ordered him to pay more than $115,000 in restitution to the city.
There was no plea agreement between the defendant and the county District Attorney’s office, the county reported.
“The fraud committed by the defendant was paid for by the taxpayers of the city of Santa Barbara, the very same people the defendant was hired to protect,” District Attorney Joyce Dudley said in a statement Friday.
“His criminal actions caused a significant breach of the public’s trust and resulted in his status changing from Santa Barbara police officer to a felon.”
Finerty, 28, had claimed to have injured his lower back in an on-duty traffic accident and had been out on leave, related to his worker’s compensation claim, on and off since 2014, when the SBPD opened an investigation, authorities said.
Finerty was placed on unpaid leave in May, and charges were filed the following month.
At the time of the sentencing, Finerty was still an SBPD employee on unpaid leave but the department was “working through the termination process,” police Sgt. Riley Harwood said.
Despite claiming to be unable to perform his job because of the injury, Finerty was seen during that time at multiple strength competitions, lifting heavy weights, and competing in a form of Russian wrestling, the District Attorney’s Office said.
“Many of Mr. Finerty’s activities were captured on video and photographs, posted on social media websites, and could have been used as evidence in his criminal trial,” the District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
Finerty, who is from Hesperia in San Bernardino County, originally pleaded not guilty during his arraignment hearing in July.
This is the second high-profile SBPD employee criminal case in recent years, with former business office manager Karen Flores sentenced to state prison after pleading no contest to embezzlement, stealing public funds and destroying parking citations.