Hamilton Township, NJ – July 15, 2013 – Joe Derrico, a repossesor on the TV show “Bear Swamp Recovery”, lost his $69,703 tax free disability pension when the New Jersey Police and Firemen’s Retirement System recognized his actions on the television show made it appear that he was not disabled and was publicly “laughing at everybody.”
It does not appear as though re-employment as an officer with Hamilton Township Police is an option though. At the time of his retirement, Derrico was under indictment on a felony charge of theft by receiving stolen property.
In a back room deal, Mercer County District attorney Joseph Bochinni dropped the case against Derrico as long as he did not seek re-employment there. If Derrico had been convicted or fired, Derrico could have lost his pension under state rules.
Derrico’s disability pension was based on his claim he could no longer work as a patrolman because he had twice injured his leg while making arrests.
One year after retiring, Derrico could be seen brawling on television as a recurring cast member of “Bear Swamp Recovery” – a “truTV” cable network un-reality show on vehicle repossessions that operated in New Jersey under a similar format as “Operation Repo” and “Lizard Lick Towing.”
During an episode named the “Monster Truck Showdown” , Derrico runs after a truck, pulls a man out of the driver’s seat, throws him to the ground and climbs into the cab. As is customary in such shows, in another scene, Derrico is wrestling with opponents.
Admittedly, Derrico’s close friend and fellow cast member, P.J. Vinch, told NBC 4′s Chris Glorioso. “ “Everything that you saw was all fake,” It was all staged. Nobody was exerting any physical activity. Nobody was actually fighting; it was mocked for TV.”
Regardless, it was real enough for the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System’s board of trustees and the state’s medical experts to determine Derrico is no longer disabled.
Derrico’s legal troubles began in April of 2010 when he was moonlighting at a Ewing Township enterprise dealing in precious metals and gems. The business was similar to a pawn shop, but did not offer collateralized loans.
When three youths stole some jewelry valued at several thousand dollars. The youths brought their loot to the store with few questions asked and Derrico paid them roughly $1,000 for the whole bag of jewelry, one of the youths later told police.
The day after the burglary, police went to the store to investigate the stolen property. Derrico denied the youths had been at his store or that he bought anything from them.
In the meanwhile, unknown to Derrico, the store had been under surveillance by Ewing Police who had suspected burglars were using the store to fence stolen property, according to documents.
Derrico was confronted by photos of the youths entering the store and quickly changed his story. Reportedly some of the jewelry was recovered, but not a platinum ring with a one-karat diamond valued at $5,500.
An internal investigation was conducted by the Mercer County prosecutor’s office and Hamilton Township and the following month, Derrico was indefinitely suspended from his police job. Administrative charges were filed against him including misconduct and untruthfulness.
A grand jury indicted Derrico July 14, 2010 on a charge of third-degree theft by receiving stolen property, an offense punishable by up to five years in prison.
During this period, Derrico had already been planning to leave the Hamilton police, but under different circumstance.
One month before the burglary, Derrico applied for accidental disability retirement, a type of pension that would pay him two-thirds of his $104,555 annual salary, tax-free, for the rest of his life.
Derrico claimed that his leg was injured while apprehending suspects on July 31, 2009 and once again on January 16, 2010. The incidents were detailed in his state pension file, obtained by New Jersey Watchdog under the Open Public Records Act.
After the first scuffle, Derrico claimed “my left leg felt like rubber and felt like it was asleep.” Six months later, the officer reported “my left leg gave out on me” when he tried to arrest a suspect at a house party.
Derrico claimed “I feel my injury will prohibit me from doing my job safely and at the level needed, it will put me or other officers in danger.”
Details about Derrico’s diagnosis, treatment and disability evaluation were omitted from the records released by the state Treasury’s Division of Pensions and Benefits. The agency determined those documents are exempt from public disclosure.
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