I-Team: Questionable Disability Pensions Cost NJ Taxpayers

A former New Jersey cop opened a crime-scene cleaning business after retiring for what he claimed was post-traumatic stress disorder from working on such gruesome homicide scenes, NBC 4 New York's I-Team has learned.

Critics say his action is an example of questionable pension distribution to retired New Jersey police officers and firefighters that deserves further scrutiny.

The former Morris County sheriff's deputy, Timothy Carroll, retired in 1999 at the age of 33, claiming he was mentally scarred by the homicide scenes he investigated, the I-Team found. He'd been a crime scene detective for eight years, and on his application for permanent disability pension, said his PTSD was causing flashbacks and hallucinations associated with crime scenes.

But five years after securing the pension, Carroll and a partner opened a business called Tragic Solutions that clears crime scenes.

"This is the theater of the absurd," said Mark Lagerkvist, of the non-profit investigative web site New Jersey Watchdog, who partnered with the I-Team to investigate Carroll and his unusual disability application.

“You have an individual who retired on disability because they were traumatized by crime scenes, and they go and start a business to clean up crime scenes," said Lagerkvist. "It makes no sense, except it makes dollars and cents to him."

John Sierchio, the former chairman of the New Jersey Police Officers and Firefighters Disability Pension Board, says Carroll’s case is one of many deserving of further scrutiny.

“The overall pension system is valued at about $80 billion,” said Sierchio, who is still active on the pension board. “But nobody’s watching.”

He believes as many as 95 percent of New Jersey police and fire fighter disability pension applications are questionable.

According to Sierchio, Carroll timed the launch of his crime scene cleanup business so that he would evade scrutiny by the state’s pension board.

After five years of collecting disability pension checks, an applicant's fitness for work can not be reevaluated. 

Carroll told the I-Team he no longer works for Tragic Solutions.

“I don’t even know if the business is still in business,” said Carroll. “It was a long time ago.”

The I-Team verified that Tragic Solutions was still in business as recently as mid-January, but corporate records indicate Carroll was removed as an officer of the company sometime after 2009.

Carroll also told the I-Team he was denied the more lucrative accidental disability pension for which he had also applied. Carroll insisted the I-Team did not have the whole story, but refused to clarify.

The I-Team spoke with several other members of the pension board who said they agree with Sierchio that a high percentage of disability applications are questionable, but their hands are tied by state law.

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