A former Oxnard police officer pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of workers’ compensation fraud and was ordered to pay $70,000 in restitution to the state. According to the report in the Ventura County Star, 28 year old Edward Idukas handed over a check during the court proceedings to cover the full amount, prosecutor Ernesto Acosta said.
Ventura County Superior Court Judge Kevin McGee set sentencing for June 13. Idukas faces up to four years behind bars but will not likely get a harsh sentence, Acosta said. “Other than committing workers’ compensation fraud, he doesn’t have anything else on his record,” Acosta said. “The guy is a former cop.”
Outside the courtroom, Idukas’ lawyer, David S. Kestenbaum, said his client was remorseful. “He’s lost his whole career and had to move his family out of state and picked up a new career. This is all he wanted to be: a police officer,” Kestenbaum said. “I hope in the interest of justice the judge reduces it to a misdemeanor and doesn’t impose jail. He’s suffered a lot as a result of his mistake. But before that he had done a lot of good for the community and received a lot of commendations … from the Oxnard PD.”
Idukas was placed on temporary total disabled status after he told a supervisor on Dec. 29, 2009, that he hurt his back while bending over at his locker and had pain and limited mobility, according to court records. He received disability pay for several months.
Investigators discovered Idukas was playing baseball weekly in a local adult league while receiving disability benefits from the city of Oxnard, according to court records. While these activities were taking place, Idukas told doctors and physical therapists that he was too disabled to return to his duties as a police officer, prosecutors said.
Kestenbaum said he thinks Idukas, who was arrested in June 2011, is innocent. But he was offered a good plea bargain, so he took it, Kestenbaum said. “He was not hiding what he was doing and felt he had received bad advice – that he could resume playing baseball to strengthen his back,” Kestenbaum said. “From our standpoint, there is a big difference in playing baseball, where you can say timeout if your back hurts, than being in a squad car in El Rio and there is no timeout in the field. Psychologically, he didn’t feel he could be a police officer (with a back injury). That was one of the problems.”