It's the latest form of performance art – dancing in a TV commercial while collecting disability payments – but unfortunately the American taxpayer has gotten stuck with the bill.
Leroy Barnes, 27, a dancer by trade, is accused of performing as a “dancing hamster” in a series of popular Kia Motor car commercials while simultaneously collecting $51,000 in disability checks from the state of California.
The Los Angeles man lied and told doctors he was unemployed so that he could collect state disability payments, CBS reported.
Barnes was employed as a dancer in June 2010 for John Cossette Productions when, during a sound check before a performance, a piece of ceiling tile fell and struck him in the head, supposedly incapacitating him. He applied for, and received, disability benefits from the state of California, receiving $51,000 from September 2010 through September 2011.
Yet during that same period, while taking the cash, he was also performing as a dancer – but the dancing hamster gig was only part of this wild “tail”: Barnes performed as a backup dancer for Madonna, Chris Brown and other celebrities during that time; performed under an alias in a rap group, The Rej3ctz; and contributed to the recording of The Rej3ctz’s 2011 song, “Cat Daddy.” (Chris Brown was the featured dancer on the video, which as of June 8, 2014 had nearly 14 million YouTube views.)
Barnes was arrested by the LAPD last month, charged with disability fraud and released on $50,000 bail. “Fraudulently collecting disability benefits is not only illegal, it disrespects legitimately injured Californians who are unable to work,” state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones told CBS. It’s unclear if Barnes has denied the allegations.
If convicted, he’ll likely owe restitution to the tune of nearly $75,000, plus need to spend nearly six years in jail, reported ABC News – which also noted Barnes is hardly “the first to be accused of claiming disability after appearing on TV”:
Cathy Cashwell pleaded guilty last year to fraud after claiming workers’ compensation and then appearing on “The Price Is Right.” In her 2004 claim, Cashwell, of Oak Island, N.C., said a shoulder injury while working as a postal worker had prevented her from standing, running, reaching or grasping. But she was spotted on the show running up to the podium, jumping in excitement and spinning the wheel. She also posted all her vacation photos online and was seen zip-lining and hang-gliding on Facebook.
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