A former corrections officer and his wife were convicted Tuesday of committing workers’ compensation fraud over a $4 million claim he filed after he was shot outside a sex club in 2008.
John Alfonzo Smiley and Cynthia Ann Biasi were each found guilty of four fraud-related counts, including concealing events that affect insurance benefits by Sacramento Superior Court Judge James McFetridge in the court trial that ended Tuesday.
The couple claimed in depositions that Smiley, shot in the back on April 27, 2008, was gunned down by a parolee who recognized him as a corrections officer as the couple left a San Francisco restaurant. They sought $4 million in workers’ compensation, claiming the injuries were work-related. Sacramento County prosecutors said the couple weres at the sex club, not a restaurant, and that an off-duty Smiley was shot following an argument with another couple after the four had swapped partners.
Smiley and Biasi had previously been convicted of related charges in Sacramento Superior Court in connection with the case. Jurors in 2012 found the pair guilty of attempted perjury, but deadlocked on the four fraud charges argued at the just-concluded court trial. Sacramento County prosecutors refiled the case in 2014, and sentencing on the attempted perjury charge was put on hold pending Tuesday’s verdict.
Smiley and Biasi could face as much as eight years, eight months in state prison on the two guilty verdicts. Sentencing is set for March 4 before McFetridge.
“They committed the fraud and they needed to be retried,” principal Deputy District Attorney Kelly Mulcahy said. “We were hoping they’d plead guilty.”
At the court trial, Mulcahy hammered away at the couple’s deposition statements. Mulcahy accused the pair of misleading state insurance officials by denying knowledge of the club, the sexual activity or the fateful argument that followed for fear of jeopardizing their claim with the State Compensation Insurance Fund, known as SCIF.
Defense attorneys Michael Wise and Alan Donato argued that San Francisco police who initially investigated the case did not properly follow the possibility that a parolee was involved in the shooting and said state insurance officials from SCIF and CalPERS neglected to conduct their own investigations, relying only on sloppy work out of San Francisco. Smiley’s shooter has never been caught.
After McFetridge’s verdict, Wise said identifying Smiley’s assailant would have aided the former correctional officer’s defense, but Mulcahy said the shooting “had no bearing on our case.” In closing arguments Monday, attorneys said the couple’s claim would likely have been denied in any event because it happened while Smiley was not on duty.
Mulcahy said Tuesday that Smiley and Biasi could have escaped prosecution early on with an apology after their initial claim was denied. Instead, the couple face a possible prison sentence.
“They had chances to walk away,” Mulcahy said. “If they said, ‘We’re sorry,’ it wouldn’t have gotten this far.”