Former Santa Clara Co. sheriff's deputy sentenced for workers' comp fraud

SAN JOSE, Calif. (BCN)— A former Santa Clara County sheriff's correctional deputy was sentenced Wednesday for false workers' compensation filed last year.
   
Mark Samuel Navarrete, 40, of San Jose, was sentenced to 120 days in county jail, but can serve the time out of custody through electronic monitoring, his defense attorney Patrick Valencia said.
   
Navarrete was also ordered to pay about $22,880 in restitution for the workers' compensation he had received for an injury during a softball game with several co-workers that he claimed was suffered at work, Santa
Clara County Deputy District Attorney David Soares said.
   
Navarrete originally pleaded not guilty to a felony count of making and presenting a false or fraudulent statement in support of a workers' compensation claim, Valencia said.
   
Last month, Navarrete changed his plea to no contest, according to Valencia.
   
He had also been charged with making a false statement in support of an insurance claim, which was later dismissed, Soares said.
   
The former deputy was injured during a softball game on July 14 while off-duty at Twin Creeks Sports Complex in Sunnyvale and later took himself to an emergency room for pain to his left bicep, according to Soares.
   
Navarrete's co-worker who knew the injury took place outside the workplace informed a supervisor, which led to an investigation into the claim, according to Soares.
   
Investigators obtained hospital records, text messages and video from the sports complex that recorded the game, Soares said.
   
Navarrete underwent surgery through the county and claimed he was injured while closing a filing cabinet at work, according to Soares.
   
The money he received from the county came from taxpayers, Soares said.
   
"When a worker lies about how an injury happened, it adds unnecessary costs that potentially cheat every other worker and employer because they're draining down limited funds," Soares said.
   
Navarrete now understands the mistake he made, but it was "unfortunate" that he lost his job over the matter, Valencia said.
   
Navarrete had worked with the sheriff's office for 12 years and resigned soon after his arrest, according to Valencia.
   
Valencia called the sentence "lenient" and believed the judge would've been given a lighter punishment if there weren't other issues surrounding violence at the county jail.
   
Sheriff's officials announced Navarrete's arrest in October, about a month after three other jail guards were taken into custody for the death of 31-year-old Michael James Tyree at the Main Jail in San Jose.
   
The guards pleaded not guilty in the murder of Tyree and are scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Monday.

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