ELIZABETH, NJ-An Elizabeth police officer has been charged with illegally collecting thousands of dollars in insurance benefits, authorities said.
Alana Velazquez, 39, of Rahway, who has served on the force since 2010, is being charged with second-degree insurance fraud, third-degree theft by deception, and three counts of forgery-related crimes.
She is accused of receiving disability benefits by falsifying how and when she was injured so that her policy would cover her injuries.
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Velazquez was injured on the job in January 2016, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor Robert Rosenthal.
Velazquez’s existing policy with American Family Life Assurance Company did not cover injuries sustained while on duty. Authorities allege that the officer filed false claims and forged documents indicating that the injury she sustained occurred due to a covered, off-duty accident. As a result, Velazquez allegedly received over $8,600.00 in disability benefits that she was not entitled to, Rosenthal said.
Velazquez was arrested at Elizabeth Police Department headquarters yesterday morning and released pending an appearance scheduled for Wednesday, September 27. If convicted she could face five to ten years in state prison.
Attorney Joshua McMahon, who is representing Velazquez, said in a statement that the officer is innocent of the charges, calling them baseless and retaliatory against officers that speak out against Police Director James Cosgrove.
“It is no small coincidence that the Elizabeth Police Department, despite being a city that is predominantly Latino and African-American, does not have a single black officer above the rank of Sergeant, and the only reason there are any black Sergeants in Elizabeth is because the Department of Justice ordered it”, said McMahon. “Cosgrove is using his political connections to carry out acts of retaliation against officers who dare to stand up to the Director when he does wrong is nothing new.”
McMahon said he intends to explore the “special relationship” between Elizabeth Chief of Police John Brennan and Acting Prosecutor Thomas Isenhour and its connection to a discrimination lawsuit that Velazquez’s filed against Cosgrove and Brennan’s Department almost two years ago.
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