Kia dancing hamster pleads no contest in disability fraud case

While he was claiming disability insurance, Leroy Barnes was busy busting a move — as a hip, dancing hamster.

On Friday, authorities announced that the dancing-rodent impersonator had pleaded no contest to one count each of insurance fraud and false statements regarding aid.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Norm Shapiro sentenced Barnes to 90 days of electronic monitoring. He also was ordered to perform 400 hours of community service and pay more than $24,000 in restitution.

Barnes had claimed that he was unemployed, but he was actually filming commercials for Kia Motors, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

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The 29-year-old said he was struck and injured by a falling piece of ceiling in June 2010 while dancing for a theatrical production company, according to Deputy Dist. Atty. Richard Gallegly. Barnes began receiving disability benefits from the Employment Development Department after seeing a doctor in July 2010, he said.

The doctor diagnosed Barnes with a sprain, strain and joint dysfunction of the thoracic spine and irritation to the eye, Gallegly told The Times in an email. The doctor put Barnes on temporary benefits for 30 to 45 days.

“It was extended every few months thereafter, based on representations by Barnes that he was hurt, and he failed to report any income to EDD during this time,” Gallegly said. 

Barnes began dancing intermittently in September 2010 and continued to dance until benefits ended in September 2011, Gallegly said. 

“Any income should have been reported to EDD but was not,” the prosecutor said. 

Barnes collected $51,000 in workers' compensation benefits from September 2010 to September 2011, authorities said.

He also worked as a backup dancer for pop stars Madonna, Kelly Rowland and Chris Brown while collecting state workers' compensation benefits, said Nancy Kincaid, spokeswoman for the California Department of Insurance.

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Times staff writer Jack Dolan contributed to this report.

For more local and breaking news, follow me on Twitter: @sarahparvini.


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1:24 p.m.: This article has been updated with comments from an L.A County prosecutor. 

This article was originally published at 11:24 a.m.