Pension Crisis

Exposing Fraud in New Jersey's Broken Pension System

Former cops collect hefty lifetime pensions thanks to bogus disability claims.


Timothy Carroll retired at age 33. He claimed he was "totally and permanently" disabled by the trauma of seeing dead bodies while working as a sheriff's officer in Morris County, New Jersey.

"I suffer from crime scene flashbacks and hallucinations due to all the years I served as a crime scene detective," stated Carroll in his disability application.

The real shock is Carroll then started a business that cleans up gory crime scenes, a New Jersey Watchdog investigation found. Yet the state continues to pay him a disability pension for life, a sum that could total $1 million or more.

Carroll's company, Tragic Solutions LLC of Linden, N.J., specializes in removing human residue from "bloody and/or messy" scenes, including "murder, suicide, accidental, natural and decomposing deaths," according to its website. He formed the business with Thomas Rohling, another former Morris sheriff's officer who draws a state disability pension.

"I really don't want to comment on this," Carroll told NBC 4 New York, New Jersey Watchdog's partner on the investigation.

"This says there is a problem with the whole pension system, the way the whole system is set up," said John Sierchio, a trustee of the state Police and Firemen's Retirement System (PFRS).

PFRS paid out $175 million to 5,067 disabled retirees in 2011—figures expected to rise when 2012 data are released.

Disability applications received by the PFRS have doubled in the past year—and 95 percent of those claims are questionable, according to Sierchio.

The supposedly career-ending incidents have included a fireman who fell out of bed while sleeping, an officer who fell off his chair while sitting down, cops who slipped on wet floors or icy sidewalks, and a patrolman who suffered emotional trauma because his lieutenant yelled at him during roll call.

"It's people who don't want to work anymore," said Sierchio, a Bloomfield police sergeant who has served on the PFRS board since 2002. "The last two officers shot in New Jersey are back to work, but the guy who trips over a curb is sitting on a beach getting two-thirds (of salary) tax-free."

In New Jersey, it's relatively easy to fake or exaggerate an injury to get a disability pension. The PFRS has no staff to investigate fraud. Nor do any of the state's five other retirement funds for public employees.

"No one is watching," said Sierchio.

The Tragic Solutions case illustrates how weak laws, red tape, and lack of enforcement contribute to the woes of a state pension system that faces a shortfall of nearly $42 billion. New Jersey Watchdog obtained the records through Open Public Records Act requests.

In 1999, Carroll told pension officials he was unable to work because of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression caused by what he witnessed while responding to a car accident and three suicides.

"I started having crime scene flashbacks and hallucinations in 1997," wrote Carroll. "In September of 1998, I suffered a hallucination while working at the courthouse. I was removed from work and placed in a mental hospital."
Carroll began receiving disability checks after the PFRS board approved his retirement effective May 1999. Five years later—in April 2004—Carroll and Rohling formed Tragic Solutions, according to state business records. For Carroll, the timing would prove crucial.

Tragic Solutions was featured later that year in an Associated Press story on businesses that clean up crimes scenes. It included a photo of Carroll and Rohling posing in biohazard protection suits they wore on the job. The AP article mentioned they were retired cops, but nothing about their disability pensions.

After the PFRS board learned of Tragic Solutions, it could not halt Carroll's disability benefits, currently $25,284 a year plus health coverage.

"In the performance of your job responsibilities with Tragic Solutions, you are exposed to crime scenes similar to those you were subjected to during your employment with Morris County as a crime scene investigator and upon which you were found disabled," a state official scolded Carroll in a 2005 letter.

"Although there will be no action taken at this time, the facts surrounding your post-retirement employment with Tragic Solutions will become part of your pension membership file," the correspondence concluded.

The law prevented PFRS from doing anything more. Under pension rules, there is a five-year limit on the state's right to re-examine disability retirees to determine if they are able to return to work. Time had run out on the Carroll case.

PFRS then turned its focus to Carroll's partner in crime scenes, Thomas Rohling.

The PFRS board had approved Rohling's disability retirement in 2003. Rohling claimed he was "totally and permanently" disabled from injuries caused when a window valance fell on him in a Morris County courtroom.

Despite conflicting reports from doctors on whether he could return to work, the PFRS board had ruled in Rohling's favor.

Not only that, but the board had granted Rohling an "accidental disability" retirement—a more generous type of pension granted to law enforcement officers whose injuries are determined to be the result of line-of-duty accidents.

As a result, Rohling currently collects $65,904 a year, tax-free.

With knowledge of his role at Tragic Solutions, the PFRS board voted in 2006 to end Rohling's disability retirement.

"If you're totally and permanently disabled, in my honest opinion, you shouldn't be able to work anymore," Sierchio said.

Rohling appealed. In 2009, an administrative law judge overturned the PFRS board's decision. Weighing conflicting testimony from doctors, the judge ruled that Rohling still qualified for disability—despite his employment with Tragic Solutions.

Both Carroll and Rohling will draw disability pensions for the rest of their lives.

So far, Rohling has received $582,000 in accidental disability pay—a figure that would grow to $2 million by his 70th birthday. Carroll has collected $310,000 in "ordinary disability" checks. At age 73, he should hit the $1 million mark.

Rohling could not be reached for comment. Carroll refused to be interviewed, saying he has not been part of Tragic Solutions for a "long time."

Without elaborating, Carroll suggested he got a raw deal because he was only approved for ordinary disability, but not accidental disability benefits.

"Look at the people who get rubber-stamped," Carroll told NBC 4?s Chris Glorioso. "I got denied (for accidental disability). There is a lot of information you don't have, and you're not going to get it from me."

Meanwhile, Sierchio and other reform advocates are seeking legal solutions to help the pension system avoid future tragedies.

One promising bill stalled in the Legislature last year, despite bipartisan support and the sponsorship of Senate President Stephen Sweeney.

If enacted, S-1913 would create a disability fraud unit, give pension boards a right to re-examine disability retirees beyond five years, and set limits on the amount of disability pay a retiree can collect after taking another job.

This article originally appeared at

NEXT: Militants Kill 23 in Attack on Pakistani Army Camp

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Wow! So many directions.

    “So shocked to find corruption in:

    1) New Jersey
    2) State Government
    3) A Pension System
    4) Anything Where Power and Money Intersect.

    Shocked, I am.”

    1. PS “suffered emotional trauma because his lieutenant yelled at him during roll call” – pussy

      1. He’s either a pussy or a conman. I’m betting conman. If he’s just a pussy, then he’s also a conman because he’s conned himself into believing that is a valid disability claim.

    2. This article is all the more hilarious when you realize what Morris County, NJ is like. We’re talking about a place that wealthy with grand, prestigious homes, set back far on large lots, lots of tree-lined streets, etc. etc.

      This guy’s PTSD is improbable.

      1. “a place that is wealthy”

    1. Ported barrel. Guess Barry can’t handle the kick.

      1. Umm, its an over/under designed for sport shooting. You port the barrels so your second shot isn’t misaligned by the recoil from the first shot. Because you see the purpose of a gun is to hit it’s target whether that be live game or clay targets.

        1. Argee with you about the barrel porting, but his stance tells me he doesn’t hit many clays.

    2. That is a Browning Citori. I have one just like it. Mine is not ported, and I do follow up shots just fine.

      Shooting skeet and trap is a boat load of fun. The more he shoots, the better.

    3. I guess he’s a lefty in more ways than one.

  2. Hot Air comes down on the words evolve side of the clips vs. magazines debate.

    1. “What differemce – at this point – does it make?!”

  3. More Accurate Heading: “Exposing Broken Pensions in New Jersey’s Fraud System”

  4. I don’t see what the deal is. Clearly he still can’t work as a police officer due to his continuing disability (check).

    Doing crime scene cleanup is part of his treatment. It’s prolonged exposure therapy.

    1. Maybe he’s so traumatized, he can’t stop thinking about it, and the only way to make those images stop is to see more of them?

      Maybe now the only work he CAN do is traumatic work–and that’s just a function of his trauma, too?

  5. You don’t get much more corrupt than Jersey. After the FBI paid my grandfather a visit because the son of the (insanely corrupt) mayor of Paterson bought some expensive shit from him in cash (in order to launder bribe money), my grandfather drove down to his store at midnight and burned most of his records in an oil drum. Not because he had done anything illegal, but just because then he could tell the FBI to fuck off and there was no way they could do anything about it. This was around 40 years ago or so, so things were a little different then.

    1. Louisiana would like a word with you.

      1. Then there was the time a friend of his accidentally hit a cop car in my grandfather’s parking lot. A really, really young girl (like, 13 or 14) in a state of partial undress popped out of the cop car and ran off. The cop starts going apeshit on the guy that hit him, and my grandfather walks over and goes “get out of here or we start talking about what I just saw come out of your car.” The cop immediately left.

    2. I live in Chicago. We’ve had 4 governors sent to prison since the 1960s. Len Small was our governor from 1921-1929 and was also charged with crimes. He was acquitted by a jury, after which 8 of the 12 jurors were given government jobs.

      I think we win.

      1. No one wins. Except the corrupt pieces of shit who rule the system.

      2. Given the rate of clearance by arrest for murders, and the rate of conviction when charged, one now has a greater chance of going to jail for being elected governor of Illinois than for murdering someone. I think that this is appropriate, given that being governor of Illinois is a far worse crime.

      3. Well, not necessarily. It means more Chicago politicians get caught being corrupt. It could be that there are more corrupt politicians in Chicago/Illinois or it could mean that they’re simply less competent in their corruption.

  6. The whole notion of disability is bogus. If you take a high paying job that requires you to do X, and then you lose your ability to do X, this does not entitle you to continue to collect that salary forever. Take another job that doesn’t require X. Probably a lower paying one.

    1. Interesting perspective as it demonstrates how disability distorts markets. Certain professions receive a compensation that is a market clearing rate (disregarding that law enforcement being a union shop doesn’t exactly feature a market clearing rate) based not just on the rarity of the skills necessary to perform the functions of the job, but a slightly elevated rate because those that get into that job assume certain risks that the duties entail. The disability system in theory should take away that “risk premium” but in reality never does, and thereby the market is distorted by disability claims.

    2. Or purchase disability insurance on the private market to shield yourself from the risk that you lose your ability to perform your job.

  7. PTSD is bullshit. Living on a farm for a decade I’ve seen too much fucked-up shit to mention. Most of us don’t have the option of a lifetime on disability pension. I believe that the fact that public service employees have this course of action available inexorably leads to abuses such as this.

    1. Living on a farm for a decade I’ve seen too much fucked-up shit to mention.

      I’m curious and I’m sure others are, too. Can we get one or two examples?

      1. For one I witnessed my wife die in front of me, and since it happened here at my home there were cops and coroners photographers documenting the scene, and I stupidly consented. Of course they opened and shot every closet and low and behold a couple of big bags of weed. So moments after the death of my wife I was arrested for possession with intent. Not farm related but fucked up and to some pussies trauma inducing. But I also once had jump in a cold pond in April to save a newborn colt who had slipped in right after foaling. Ultimately I struggled to get him out but he died of shock as soon as I got him on land. This was at six thirty in the morning. I had the sucker buried and drove to work by eight. I have had to shoot loved horses and dogs. Life ain’t easy and shit happens to claim psychological disability shouldn’t fly.

        1. It seems like most of modern America is so detached from the real elements of the human experience: death, suffering, and poverty.

        2. I’m sorry for your losses; especially your wife and freedom, and to a lesser extent your horse.

          Just yesterday at work I had human blood up to my elbows, and down the front of my scrubs. Some of it got into my mouth. I freaked out a little over that. I don’t have PTSD, possibly hepatitis C now, but not PTSD.

          1. What, are you the lead in a real-life Hostel remake?

            1. Either that or a nurse at a trauma center. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.

        3. I’ve only had the little farm for 6 months or so, but he’s right. In the last week I had to strangle a sick duck and chuck three dead goat kids over the rock wall behind our property. The last goat was especially difficult, having spent the better part of two days bottle-feeding it in an effort to save its life after it couldn’t latch on to it’s mother’s teats.

          The week before, I had to dispose of a mauled piglet that my kids had taken quite a shine to and a month ago, I had to bury their favorite lamb.

          1. … and chuck three dead goat kids over the rock wall behind our property.

            I’m assuming by “chuck…over a rock wall”, you mean dispose of in an environmentally sensitive fashion respecting all applicable state, local and federal regulations. Don’t want the EPA or the DEP paying you any visits.

  8. For Mr. Sierchio and his fellow pension board trustees, a disproportionate number of who are police and fire union appointees and/or allies — how were these retirees found to be “disabled” in the first place? Aren’t YOU the ones who approve their applications? Don’t YOU send them to doctors of your own choosing when the disabilites are not obvious? Don’t YOU vote on whether they are or are not disabled? Isn’t it a little late to cry foul when YOU bought into the BS “disability” yourself?

    You wouldn’t need money for fraud enforcement if you did a better job screening the phony “disabilities” at the outset. Just a thought.

    1. Expecting them to do their jobs is a little much, dontcha think?

    2. There are no physicians more shady or questionable than the ones that do disability exams. In many places you can even just see a chiropractor to substantiate your claim of disabled for life.

  9. “In the performance of your job responsibilities with Tragic Solutions, you are exposed to crime scenes similar to those you were subjected to during your employment with Morris County as a crime scene investigator and upon which you were found disabled,” a state official scolded Carroll in a 2005 letter.

    We will write an angry letter, telling you how angry we are!

  10. $175m divided by ~5k employees comes out to an average of $34,537 a year per employee. That’s roughly half my net pay, and I’m a developer in a lucrative market.

    Apparently, I picked the wrong profession.

  11. Not to mention that their disability pensions are TAX FREE. When will 60 Minutes look into that?

  12. This is what the statute, N.J.S.A. 43:16A-8(2), actually says:

    “Any beneficiary under the age of 55 years who has been retired on a disability retirement allowance … upon the request of the retirement system may, be given a medical examination and he shall submit to any examination by a physician or physicians designated by the medical board once a year for at least a period of 5 years following his retirement in order to determine whether or not the disability which existed at the time he was retired has vanished or has materially diminished. If the report of the medical board shall show that such beneficiary is able to perform either his former duty or any other available duty in the department which his employer is willing to assign to him, the beneficiary shall report for duty .. If the beneficiary fails to submit to any such medical examination or fails to return to duty within 10 days after being ordered so to do, or within such further time as may be allowed by the board of trustees for valid reason, as the case may be, the pension shall be discontinued during such default.”

    The law says that the “disabled” officer can be examined once a year for AT LEAST five years. It does not say that once you scam the system for five years you are home free. Enforce the law for crying out loud.

  13. Disability applications received by the PFRS have doubled in the past year?and 95 percent of those claims are questionable, according to Sierchio.

    Throw them in the snake pit.

    1. They’re already in New Jersey.

      (This joke also works with “cesspool”)

  14. ” but the guy who trips over a curb is sitting on a beach getting two-thirds (of salary) tax-free.”

    Nice work if you can get it.

  15. This whole ‘disability’ scheme was used in the LIRR pension ‘scandal’

    And in almost every police department anyone has bothered to examine

    Its so commonplace, its simply a matter of looking under the rock right next to you

    No one ever does a systematic review of how public pensions are routinely milked by people claiming last minute disability


    I’m sick of hearing these ‘one off’ examples of corruption, which gives the impression of ‘a few bad apples’

    Just google ‘disability scam’



    there isn’t enough room for all the links

    1. BALKO starts investigating this shit and I would seriously begin to worry about his personal health.

      1. he’s faced worse

        its his M.O.

  16. That makes a lot of crazy senst. Wow.

  17. I don’t doubt that fraud and abuse are rampant. The pending bill discussed above should be reintroduced. Ultimately, the state pension systems should transition to a defined contribution 401k type system. Disability insurance costs should be shared between the employer and employee.

  18. a patrolman who suffered emotional trauma because his lieutenant yelled at him

    Ok, that pussy should never have made it through the police academy. What the FUCK?


  19. I have a friend that was a cop and had half his face beaten in by some thugs. He can’t see straight anymore to drive and has pretty bad facial pain. When fraudsters play the system it puts people like my friend in a constant state of worry that their disability pension might end due to bankruptcy.

  20. Well whether it is disability or not we can’t say but governing body who look after pension & disability claims can decide on this.
    Certified Financial Advisor

  21. If you think Randy`s story is impossible,, last pay-cheque my son actually earned $4275 putting in seventeen hours a week from their apartment and their classmate’s sister-in-law`s neighbour has done this for seven months and brought in over $4275 part-time on their mac. follow the advice available at this link…

  22. Thief. Liar.

  23. Nicest chat and chat Iraqi entertaining Adject all over the world

  24. thank you for share perfectly quality content perfectly quality content

  25. totally what i wanted to find very interesting details how can i find out more?

  26. i love this website wonderful post very nice post

  27. like this blog this text is worth everyone’s attention very neat post much thanks

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.