'Dancing Hamster' in Kia Ad Accused of Claiming $51K in Disability Benefits
Leroy Barnes, who performed costumed as a dancing hamster in a wildly popular Kia car commercial, now stands accused of claiming $51,000 in disability benefits.
"In 2010, he was working on another production job," said Byron Tucker, assistant commissioner at the California Department of Insurance. "He claims that a part of a ceiling fell on him, incapacitated him, which prevented him from working."
Barnes, 27, of Los Angeles, also claimed workers compensation benefits while working as a backup dancer for Madonna, Chris Brown, Kelly Rowland and others, officials allege. He was arrested last month but is free on bail.
ABC News has been unable to reach Barnes and it's unclear whether he has denied the allegations.
Barnes, who, if convicted, could face restitution payments of nearly $75,000 as well as six years behind bars, is not the first to be accused of claiming disability after appearing on TV.
Cathy Cashwell pleaded guilty last year to fraud after claiming workers' compensation and then appearing on "Price Is Right."
In her 2004 claim, Cashwell of Oak Island, North Carolina, said a shoulder injury while working as a postal worker had prevented her from standing, running, reaching or grasping.
But she was spotted on the show running up to the podium, jumping in excitement and spinning the wheel. She also posted all her vacation photos online and was seen zip-lining and hang-gliding on Facebook.
"People might want to make light of this and I would urge them not to," assistant commissioner Tucker said. "This type of fraud impacts everybody because when you have fraud in the system, it forces employers to pay higher premiums. They pass that cost on to customers and we pay in the form of higher prices."