MAYS LANDING - A stolen iPhone in Somers Point starts Atlantic County detectives on a trail that leads to eight charges against a Pleasantville police officer.

Juan Forero, 34, of Pleasantville, faces one second-degree and two third-degree counts of theft by deception, two second-degree healthcare claims fraud charges, a third-degree count of theft by unlawful taking and a fourth-degree unsworn falsification charge, according to the office of Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner.

Forero is suspended without pay, and remains on administrative leave from the force.

The series of discoveries began on April 26, when Somers Point police detectives looked into the reported theft of an Apple iPhone 7 Plus from Shop-Rite.

Forero was seen in surveillance footage taking the phone from a shopping cart, accompanied by his ex-wife Haydee Forero, and he was identified as a Pleasantville cop, authorities said.

Investigators of Pleasantville PD's Internal Affairs division and the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Official Corruption Unit learned that the couple married in 2006 and divorced in 2011.

Detectives determined that after being sworn in in January 2015, Forero applied for health insurance coverage through Blue Cross Blue Shield and sought to assign his ex-wife as beneficiary, certifying in writing that he was married to Haydee Forero, and supplying their marriage certificate to prove it.

Blue Cross Blue Shield paid more than $90,000 toward the woman's health care between 2015 and 2017, authorities said, estimating that the treatments would have cost about $320,00 out-of-pocket. In the same time frame, the City of Pleasantville paid about $21,000 extra in premium payments for her coverage.

Digging more deeply, investigators said that Forero committed the same ruse through his previous employer, AtlantiCare. They claim that coverage for his ex-wife cost the hospital system about $4,000.

"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," said Pleasantville Police Chief Sean Riggin in prepared comments.

"I am confident in the findings of the investigation and we will move to separate the officer accordingly. 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."

Atlantic County authorities did not disclose whether Forero has retained a lawyer. The County's case is being led by Chief Assistant Prosecutor John Flammer.

 

Charges are accusations. Defendants are presumed innocent unless, and until, found guilty in a court of law.

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