MAYS LANDING — An investigation into a stolen iPhone led to multiple charges of theft and insurance fraud against a Pleasantville police officer, Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner announced Friday.
Juan Forero, 34, of Pleasantville, an officer since 2015, is charged with theft by unlawful taking, two counts of third-degree theft by deception, second-degree theft by deception, unsworn falsification to authorities, insurance fraud and two counts of health care claims fraud.
He was placed on administrative leave from the department during the investigation and is suspended without pay following criminal charges, Tyner said.
An investigation began April 26, when detectives from the Somers Point Police Department received a report of a stolen iPhone 7 Plus from a ShopRite. Surveillance video from the grocery store showed a man, later identified as Forero, taking the phone from a shopping cart, authorities said.
Once it was revealed Forero was a police officer, the Internal Affairs Section of the Pleasantville police and the prosecutor’s Official Corruption Unit joined the investigation.
The full investigation found Forero claimed his ex-wife, Haydee Forero, as a beneficiary when he applied for health insurance with Blue Cross, Blue Shield through the City of Pleasantville, the prosecutor said.
Forero and Haydee were married in 2006 and divorced in 2011.
In 2015, Forero presented the 2006 marriage certificate with the health insurance application. According to the Prosecutor’s Office, from 2015 to 2017 Blue Cross Blue Shield paid more than $90,000 toward Haydee’s health care, which would have cost about $320,000 out of pocket. During the same period, Pleasantville incurred an additional expense of about $21,000 premium payments for her coverage.
Further investigation found Forero claimed the same marital status while employed by AtlantiCare before becoming a police officer. AtlantiCare incurred about $4,000 in costs associated with coverage for her, Tyner said.
“While I am saddened to confirm that one of our officers has been charged with criminal conduct, I am also reassured to report that the internal affairs process has worked as intended and in solid coordination between our Pleasantville Police investigators and Prosecutor Tyner’s investigators,” police Chief Sean Riggin said in a statement. “The Pleasantville Police Department cannot and will not accept unethical conduct by our officers and will take swift action to investigate all claims of misconduct by members of the Pleasantville Police Department.”