Painfully limping from a seeming job injury, Mandy Henderson left work and started hauling in payloads of disability money as a lieutenant for the Santa Clara (Calif.) County Sheriff’s department.
Henderson convinced doctors she couldn’t do the job a law-enforcement officer needed to keep the peace and sweep bad actors off the streets. Henderson insisted she couldn’t walk regularly, jog a mile in 12 minutes, climb stairs, bend or drive a patrol car.
Sadly, she said she spent most of her days lying on the couch and couldn’t even raise her child normally. Doctors believed her convincing story.
Henderson moved to Las Vegas and retired from the force, presumably nearly crippled by pain and broken-down body parts. The disability money kept coming, helping replace her lost salary and pay for medical bills.
Faked injury, built muscles
In fact, Henderson was a competitive body builder the whole time in Las Vegas. She’d faked her work injury and was plundering the sheriff department’s disability system.
The disability money paid for a fantasy vacation lifestyle that let Henderson sculpt a perfect body at a local gym — courtesy of honest taxpayers. Rippling with muscles, stamina and energy, Henderson competed for body-building trophies. She checked into a local gym 208 times.
The sheriff’s department office back in San Jose grew suspicious and hired an investigative firm to tail Henderson. The firm secretly filmed her living the good life in Las Vegas.
The camera lens caught Henderson working a treadmill and stair climber. She lifted weights such as shoulder and bench presses, and shoulder lifts.
As for child rearing, Henderson easily lifted her kid and drove the car she said she couldn’t drive.
The sheriff’s department asked Henderson to fly back to San Jose for an interview. She begged off, claiming “a lot of pain sitting down for long periods” — such as on a plane.
Pretended pain at meeting
So two officials flew to Las Vegas. They all met at a Starbucks coffee shop. Henderson walked gingerly, leaning on her husband Ken — himself a former Santa Clara police officer. She pretended to have a lot of pain while moving. Midway through the conversations, she stopped to lie down on a bench after complaining of discomfort.
The hammer of justice finally came down hard, and Henderson was arrested. And none too soon. The 41-year-old stood to receive more than $3.3 million of industrial disability retirement money over her full life expectancy.
Henderson had no defense. She pled no contest to making a false claim. She avoided jail with six months of home confinement.
But the price tag was far higher. Henderson’s law-enforcement career is over, she must repay the stolen disability money, and will carry a record of convicted insurance felon wherever she goes.
“She took advantage of a system that is in place to help injured first responders. She should be ashamed for discrediting the sacrifice of law enforcement professionals everywhere,” the sheriff’s department said in a statement. “The true victims in this case are the injured employees that are recovering and actually planning to return to work.”
About the author: Jim Quiggle is director of communications for the Coalition.