Photo via Pixabay
Photo via Pixabay

An Orange County Social Services Agency group counselor pleaded guilty Friday to filing a fraudulent worker’s compensation claim for about $30,000 and was immediately sentenced to 100 hours of community service and ordered to pay back the money.

Maluelue Tafua, 41, of Orange, put in a claim in January of last year, saying he hurt his shoulder and elbow on duty while restraining someone at the Orangewood Children’s Home, prosecutors said.

He was assigned to desk duty such as answering phones as a result, but then claimed he was unable to use his right arm and was put on temporary total disability, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

Tafua bench-pressed 315 pounds in a gym in June of last year, prosecutors said. At a doctor’s visit the next day, he said his pain had not improved, but that he was following his treatment plan.

The next month, county officials opened an investigation resulting in two counts each of insurance fraud and making fraudulent statements.

Tafua admitted four misdemeanors and was ordered to pay back $30,271.80. He was placed on three years of informal probation.

Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Lisa Bartlett said the punishment “sends a message that fraud will not be tolerated.”

Supervisor Shawn Nelson added, “When people claim benefits they didn’t earn, it abuses the system and drains county resources. This is about promoting government accountability and integrity.”

Orange County Chief Executive Officer Frank Kim said the 10-year employee’s plea bargain “represents a sad chapter for the county and particularly this employee.”

–City News Service

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