Everett, WA – A former Washington state corrections officer accused of holding three jobs while claiming he was too disabled to work will serve seven days behind bars along with home detention.
John J. Gruden, 44, pleaded guilty Friday, Jan. 20 to felony, first-degree theft in a scheme to illegally get thousands of dollars in workers’ compensation benefits. The Washington Attorney General’s Office prosecuted the case based on a Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) investigation.
Investigators videotaped Gruden jogging, as well as driving to work at the Phoenix Police Department − all while receiving disability payments of more than $100,000 over five years.
Judge orders jail and home monitoring
On Friday, Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Ellen J. Fair ordered Gruden to serve 45 days of incarceration − seven of them in the Snohomish County Jail, and the remainder in electronic monitoring at home in Michigan, where he now lives.
Gruden was also ordered to repay the state $100,544. If he fails to comply with any part of the sentence, he must return to Washington state to serve the remainder of his confinement.
On the lookout for workers’ comp crooks
“This was a blatant case of someone trying to game the workers’ comp system, and we have the video and records to prove it,” said Elizabeth Smith, assistant director of L&I’s Fraud Prevention & Labor Standards.
“Our investigators and claim managers are on the lookout for crooks who break the law to get L&I benefits. This case serves as a warning that we do catch cheaters.”
Gruden injured his ankle and foot during training in May 2011, while serving as a correctional officer at Monroe Correctional Complex.
That August, he moved to Arizona, where he signed official forms and told L&I vocational counselors that his on-the-job injury prevented him from working, and that he wasn’t employed. His declarations, coupled with physician confirmations, allowed Gruden to receive L&I payments to replace part of his wages.
Worked in three security jobs in Arizona
An L&I claim manager later requested surveillance to check on the extent of Gruden’s abilities and injuries. Investigators discovered Gruden had been working as a security professional in Arizona for nearly the entire time he told L&I he wasn’t employed.
From the fall of 2011 to early 2016, Gruden worked at a private security firm, at Maricopa County Community College, and, finally, as a full-time police officer assistant/municipal security guard for the Phoenix Police Department.
Gruden was taken into custody this afternoon to begin serving his jail time.
Source: WA L&I