HAYWARD — Anthony Pirone, a former BART police officer fired in 2010 for escalating a confrontation with passengers that led to the killing of Oscar Grant III, has been charged with unemployment fraud.
Pirone, now member of the U.S. Army, is accused of collecting unemployment checks from the state for about seven months even though he had a job, court records show.
Pirone is accused of cashing unemployment checks from May 2011 through December 2011 and lying to state officials about not having a job even though he had enlisted in the Army and began working full time at Fort Bragg.
Pirone began collecting unemployment in May 2010 after BART fired him for his actions on the Fruitvale station platform in the moments before Grant was killed by former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle, according to court records.
In May 2011, Pirone enlisted in the Army and began working full time but never notified the state unemployment office, court records state. In fact, Pirone is accused of lying at least 10 times in sworn affidavits that he was unemployed, the court records state.
The amount of money Pirone is accused of illegally taking from the state is unknown but when he was fired by BART in 2010, Pirone was making more than $100,000 a year in salary and more than $3,000 a year in overtime.
Pirone's attorney, Bill Rapoport, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Pirone was charged on April 15. He was supposed to appear in court this week but is serving in Afghanistan and could not attend court. His case was postponed until next year, when he is scheduled to return to the United States.
Teresa Drenick, spokeswoman for the Alameda County District Attorney's Office, declined to comment Thursday.
Pirone's actions at the Fruitvale station the night Grant was killed were criticized by many, as he was blamed for escalating tensions between New Year's Eve revelers returning home from San Francisco and BART police officers.
Pirone, a former member of the Marine Corps military police and a federal officer for Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, was the first BART officer to respond to a call at the station. The call was for a fight on a train and Pirone arrived at Fruitvale with his partner, Marysol Domenici.
Video recordings from the incident showed Pirone acting aggressively as soon as he arrived on the platform. He was recorded grabbing one of Grant's friends by the hair and later, punching Grant. Pirone also was recorded yelling racial epithets at Grant.
Witnesses who testified in the murder trial against Mehserle also described Pirone as being one of the most aggressive officers on the platform during the early hours of New Year's Day in 2009.