Firefighter Fired For Entering Bodybuilding Contest While On Disability -- Acquitted

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A former Boston firefighter who was fired three years ago after entering a bodybuilding contest while on disability leave has been found not guilty of defrauding taxpayers.

The verdict earlier this week ends a more than three-year-long saga that began in April 2008 when firefighter Albert Arroyo, then 46, filed for a disability pension, claiming he had suffered a severe back injury.

Several weeks later, however, he was seen competing in a national bodybuilding competition. Arroyo was ordered to return to work but refused, saying he hadn't gotten written approval from his doctor.

He was subsequently fired and charged with fraud.

But on Monday, a U.S. District Court jury acquitted Arroyo of two counts of mail fraud after less than four hours of deliberation, The Boston Globe reports. Arroyo, who quivered with emotion and burst into tears when the decision was read, faced up to 40 years in prison.

Arroyo declined comment after the verdict, but his attorney, Timothy Watkins, said the outcome proves the system works. "[T]he jury was able to consider all of the evidence and put aside the public outcry," Watkins said.

Prosecutors were disappointed by the decision. In a statement, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said the verdict was a "disappointment," according to the Globe.

"Taxpayers expect an honest day's work for a fair day's pay from every public servant," Ortiz said, adding that her agency will continue to investigate and prosecute similar types of workplace fraud.

Despite the verdict in Arroyo's favor, it remains unclear whether he will seek to return to his job as a fire inspector, his attorney said.

Another member of the fire department faces charges in the government's pension abuse investigation, the Globe noted.

James Famolare, a former deputy chief of personnel accused of faking a career-ending injury, is slated to go on trial in October.


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