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The man who once played a dancing hamster in a Kia Soul commercial has been arrested on suspicion of insurance fraud.
Leroy Barnes, 27, of Los Angeles, had allegedly been collecting disability insurance benefits after he claimed he was struck by a "piece of ceiling" during a gig. However, LA's KCBS-TV reports that Leroy allegedly told doctors he was unemployed -- when he was actually getting work as a dancer, both in commercials and for major recording artists.
Does Barnes have a chance of shuffling his way out of this one?
Leroy Barnes: The Hamster in the Parachute Pants
The man depicted as an anthropomorphic hamster in the lime-green "MC Hammer"-style parachute pants is the same one who is now accused of committing insurance fraud.
In California, insurance fraud is covered by both the penal code and insurance code. Both state that it's a felony to knowingly make false statements for the purposes of receiving payment or compensation for alleged injuries. According to KCBS, Barnes is accused of collecting more than $51,000 in disability benefits, all while he was not-so-secretly getting performance gigs.
In addition to his Kia hamster commercial, while Barnes was collecting disability insurance, he was also a backup dancer for Madonna, Kelly Rowland, and Chris Brown under the alias "Hypnosis," reports The Huffington Post. What's a surefire way to get caught lying about disability claims? Start dancing in public!
Barnes was also performing in rap group The Rej3ctz at the time under the alias MoWii. Rapper, dancer, alleged fraudster... Barnes seems to be a triple threat.
California Calls Him Out
Although Barnes was alleged to have committed the fraud from September 2010 to September 2011, he wasn't arrested until March of this year. Maybe California law enforcement had just recently unmasked Barnes as the dancing rodent shortly before he was arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department.
Pulling no punches, the California Department of Insurance issued a press release Wednesday, calling out Barnes for his alleged fraud and reminding us that "it disrespects legitimately injured Californians who are unable to work." If convicted, Barnes could face up to six years in prison and be forced to pay $74,287.69 in restitution.
Let's hope Barnes saved some money for a lawyer during those dancing Kia hamster commercial days.