Board Shoots Down Pension Claim, Calls for Investigation of Prosecutor

Board Shoots Down Pension Claim, Calls for Investigation of Prosecutor
May 6, 2014

A Camden, N.J., police sergeant’s plan to get a disability pension by having his wife shoot him missed the target by nearly two million dollars.

A New Jersey pension board voted unanimously Monday to strip Jeffrey Frett of all of his honorable pension service credits. Frett’s unusual attempt to get a $50,000-a-year tax-free disability retirement was reported by New Jersey Watchdog last week.

Trustees of the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System roundly criticized the Camden County prosecutor’s sweetheart deal with Frett.

‘Covering Up Criminal Incident’

“The county prosecutor’s office should be looked at for covering up a criminal incident so this gentleman could get a pension costing taxpayers and the pension system almost $2 million,” said Trustee John Sierchio.

Trustee Richard D. Loccke said the prosecutor’s records show direct evidence of a conspiracy to defraud the pension system, plus a report of false information to the police and possession of a defaced weapon. In addition, the prosecutor never charged the officer’s wife, who discharged the illegal gun within city limits when she took a shot at her husband.

“Somehow the Camden prosecutor’s office took multiple criminal acts, reduced all of these indictable acts down to a disorderly [conduct] and let him resign from office,” said Loccke. “The penalty was less than a speeding ticket.”

The spokesman for Camden County Prosecutor Warren W. Faulk did not return calls seeking comment.

Good Plan, Bad Aim

In November 2010, Frett had a plan: While he was alone on patrol in Camden one night, his wife would drive up in a dark van. She would shoot him in the leg, but not seriously hurt him. Then she would escape as an unknown assailant.

Injured in the line of duty, Frett would retire on disability at age 40 to collect a tax-free pension for the rest his life. And they would live happily ever after.

But that’s not what happened.

The aim of Frett’s wife was not accurate that fateful evening. The bullet she fired at her husband hit his pants leg but missed him. Over police radio, Frett reported that he had been shot.

A nearby plainclothes officer stopped the getaway van and apprehended the woman. Available court documents do not mention Frett’s wife’s first name, and prosecutors have refused to answer New Jersey Watchdog’s questions about her.

When she was questioned by investigators, their plan was exposed.

Penalty: Probation and $158

Under a deal with the county prosecutor, Frett pleaded guilty to one count of disorderly conduct in May 2011. He was sentenced to probation, which ended when he paid $158 in fines and court costs.

“Mr. Frett did what he did, and it was not the act of a rational person,” his lawyer, John Feeley, said. “He basically had a breakdown.”

Feeley had a different story to tell the PFRS board. He said Frett’s disability stemmed from a car accident in 2008 – two years before the shooting. According to Feeley, Frett’s injuries, which he would not publicly discuss, were not adequately treated. He also said Frett was taunted by fellow employees, who once left diapers and baby wipes in his locker.

It was not a winning argument for Frett, who had been employed by Camden for more than 16 years.

“If you really believed you were disabled in 2008, you wouldn’t have had to have your wife shoot you in 2010,” Sierchio told Frett.

New Sheriff In Town

Loccke noted Frett’s disability retirement application was submitted one month after the botched shooting, and the deal with the county prosecutor coincided with a decision to disband the city police in favor of a new Camden County police agency.

“There was a deal made here, pure plea bargaining to end his time with the Camden city police,” said Loccke. “The Titanic had already hit the iceberg. It was over for the Camden city police. On the way out the door, he was allowed to go and make a deal.

“But the other end of the deal is not going to be getting a pension from the State of New Jersey for the rest of his life.”

Mark Lagerkvist (mlagerkvist@watchdog.org) reports for New Jersey Watchdog, where this article first appeared.