Former officer found guilty in fraud case wants pension back - WSMV Channel 4

Former officer found guilty in fraud case wants pension back

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James Cooper Jr. James Cooper Jr.

A former Metro police officer who pleaded guilty in a benefits fraud case now wants his pension reinstated.

James Cooper Jr. worked as a Metro officer for 18 years, until he went out on in-line-of-duty disability pension in 1981. He continued to collect his benefits even after he moved to California and got a job working as a patrol officer with the San Jacinto Police Department.

Cooper passed a rigorous physical exam to prove he was fit for police work, even though Metro had considered him unable to work. Cooper collected $897 per month for 10 years for a back injury he suffered on duty with the Metro Police Department.

After a Channel 4 I-Team investigation in 1996, Cooper plead guilty to four counts of misdemeanor theft and paid back $73,000.

Cooper broke a city law when he lied to Metro on annual questionnaires that ask if a pensioner is working any other jobs. For at least three years, Cooper said no.

"I did falsify that. But I didn't steal money from them. There's a difference," Cooper told Channel 4.

He wants Metro to give him a service pension for the 18 years he spent on the force before he started collecting disability payments.

"I was under duress of losing my pension, and I couldn't afford to lose my pension. And that's the reason I did that. I was under duress because Metro would not respond to my letters or phone calls," Cooper said.

Cooper said Metro did not answer his questions about how much he could legally earn before it would impact his disability pension.

Metro would have reduced his monthly pension if he earned over a certain amount.

"True, I did say that I wasn't working. But that's the reason why. I figured they were looking for a reason to pull my pension. And I was right," Cooper said.

Internal documents in Cooper's personnel file at Metro indicate Cooper is prohibited from receiving any benefits because of his conviction.

Cooper said the years he put in before his injury ought to count for something.

"They owe me that. They owe me that for the time I put in and the fact that I've never been convicted of a felony," he said.

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