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Buffalo police officer faces fraud charge; Recent retiree 2nd to be accused of cheating sick leave system

Another Buffalo police officer has been charged with cheating the state's generous sick leave system by falsely posing as an injured officer.

Patrick S. O'Mara, who retired from the force in March, is accused of fraudulently collecting "injured on duty" pay for seven years at a cost of $626,000 in salary, benefits and medical expenses.

Investigators claim O'Mara, 50, a former lieutenant, confessed to his crimes -- he's accused of mail and health care fraud -- during a recent interview with the FBI.

According to agents, O'Mara admitted that he was capable of working light duty and that while he was away from the department he worked a second job as an organist for St. Mark Catholic Church in North Buffalo.

"It is demeaning to sit at a desk and answer phones, and I consider it to be punishment," he reportedly told FBI investigators.

He also reportedly said that "the pay on IOD status, which is without taxes, is actually an incentive to stay off duty in IOD status."

The case against O'Mara is the second injured-on-duty case brought by federal prosecutors in recent days. The other was against Robert Quintana, a Buffalo police officer and former Common Council member.

"It's sad to be announcing the arrest of another police officer," said Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda.

Derenda said that the investigation into other officers is continuing and that more arrests are expected. He declined to speculate on a number.

He also indicated that 23 officers who were on long-term sick leave have retired since the department began its crackdown on injured-on-duty abuse nearly a year ago.

"I believe some of them retired because of the rumors of an investigation," Derenda told reporters.

Federal prosecutors noted that O'Mara retired in March but stopped short of speculating on why.

"Not a happy day," U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. said of O'Mara's arrest, "but a day that needs to be encountered head-on."

O'Mara, who could not be reached to comment, is expected in federal court at 11 a.m. today to face the charges against him.

In the previous injured-on-duty case, Quintana was accused of working at the Niagara Cafe on Niagara Street while at the same time claiming he had fallen down stairs and was unable to work as a police officer.

At the time of his arrest, he was collecting his injured-on-duty salary of more than $60,000 a year.

"These individuals chose to do what they did," said Christopher M. Piehota, special agent in charge of the FBI office in Buffalo. "They knew the consequences and risks of their actions."

Quintana insists he did nothing illegal by occasionally working at the Niagara Cafe, a well-known West Side restaurant owned by his wife's parents. He claims he worked for an hour or so each day and only when his pain would permit it.