NJ cop tried to get disability pension after using gun in road rage
NEWARK — A former city detective has lost his bid to get a full accidental-disability pension after losing his job over a road rage incident.
Ugo Bellomo appealed the Police and Firemen's Retirement System's determination that he was not "totally and permanently disabled" as a result of an on-duty crash in 2007. That determination was upheld in an appellate decision released Thursday.
In the 2007 crash, Bellomo's patrol vehicle lost traction in pursuit of a suspected drug dealer and struck a pole.
Belloma continued to work for years after the crash and only applied for the pension after he was charged with a crime five years later. In 2012, Bellomo was charged with fourth-degree aggravated assault after he pointed his service weapon at the driver of a car that had cut him off.
As a result of that incident, the Newark Police Department tried to fire him.
In order to avoid a criminal conviction and a jail sentence, Bellomo sought to enter the pre-trial intervention program. Bellomo was told by his attorney that he would have to forfeit his job if he applied for PTI. Two months later, he applied for accidental disability retirement based on the 2007 crash but continued to work for three more months.
An article on NJ.com noted that Bellomo's brother-in-law is former Newark Police Director Samuel DeMaio. At the time, DeMaio said Bellomo's being related to him was not a factor in any disciplinary measures taken against him.
“Anyone who thinks that there was influence, I resent that,” DeMaio said. “I handled this matter professionally, recused myself from the investigation, and it was handled the same way any other officer’s situation would have been handled.”
Bellomo's petition for disability was denied by the pension board based on the belief that he was not disabled from his regular work duties, according to the appellate decision Thursday. The application was also denied because it was not made within five years of the crash. As a result, the board ruled he was eligible instead for deferred retirement, which does not provide the full level of benefits as an accidental disability pension.
Following the denial, Bellomo appealed. His first appeal was successful in part because he had objected to having the criminal charges considered by an administrative law judge. The administrative law judge ruled that Bellomo had been permanently disabled in the 2007 crash and that his ability to continue to work "was the result of a delayed manifestation of the disability" and his "high tolerance for pain."
The judge's advisory decision was rejected by the pension board, which insisted on taking the criminal charges into account.
The administrative law judge issued a second ruling on Nov. 9, 2016, recommending Bellomo's disability benefits be denied.
The judge called Bellomo's timing for applying for benefits "suspicious."
The judge also noted that he had not sought treatment for his injuries from the crash until he started the process of applying for disability.
Bellomo joined the Newark Police Department in July 1996.
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