SANTA ANA, Calif. – A former Orange County Sheriff's Department (OCSD) deputy was convicted and sentenced to six months in Orange County jail and three years informal probation today on charges for committing insurance fraud by failing to disclose his true physical abilities and activities to his health care providers. Nicholas Zappas, 36, Laguna Niguel, pleaded guilty to six misdemeanor counts of insurance fraud. In addition to his jail time and probation, Zappas was ordered to pay $34,838.97 in restitution to the County and $1,000 to the Worker's Compensation Fraud Assessment Fund. The defendant is also required to dismiss his 2011 and 2015 worker's compensation claims with prejudice as a condition of his probation.
At the time of the crimes, Zappas was employed as an OCSD deputy for approximately 14 years.
On April 2, 2015, while working Harbor Patrol and engaged in a boat rescue, Zappas tripped over a fire hose and fell on his back. The defendant filed a workers' compensation insurance claim for injuries to his left shoulder, left side of his neck, and lower back. Zappas was placed on work restrictions of no lifting, pushing, or pulling greater than 10 pounds by a medical doctor due to the defendant's complaint of pain. OCSD accommodated the work restrictions and Zappas was assigned to dispatch.
Between May 2015 and November 2015,Zappas engaged in CrossFit, which is a high-impact exercise with varied functional movements. The defendant appeared on video while engaging in CrossFit, including lifting substantial weights in excess of 200 pounds, performing box jumps, burpees, squats, and other activities that were contrary to the limitations imposed by the doctor based on the defendant's description of his pain, symptoms, and limitations. Zappas failed to disclose that he was participating in CrossFit to his medical physicians.
In May 2015, the County discovered that Zappas was engaging in CrossFit, and it was reported to OCDA Bureau of Investigations, who investigated this case.
On Dec. 1, 2015, while under oath during his deposition, Zappas denied lifting anything over 20 pounds since the date of his injury and claimed that he could not lift anything heavy, could not do squats, and could not run.
Between January 2016 and May 2016, Zappas continued to engage in CrossFit and did not disclose his abilities to his medical physicians.
Deputy District Attorney Pamela Leitao of the Insurance Fraud Unit prosecuted this case.
Orange County District Attorney / Case # 16CF2709 / February 21, 2017