A Spanish civil servant recently became eligible for an award for his 20 years of service. The problem was that he had not shown up for work for six years.
The Spanish media has dubbed 69-year-old Joaquin Garcia “el Funcionario Fantasma,” or the the Phantom Official. He had failed to show up for work while still receiving paychecks since 2010, according to the BBC.
Employed in the city of Cadiz, Garcia was in charge of supervising the wastewater treatment plant but stopped showing up to his office. His co-workers assumed he was working from home, according to the Examiner.
In 2016, Garcia became eligible for a plaque for his two decades as a civil servant. It was when Cadiz Deputy Mayor Jorge Blas Fernandez made the arrangements that Garcia’s absence was discovered.
“We thought the water company was supervising him but that was not the case,” Fernandez said. “We found out when we were about to present him with a commemorative plaque for 20 years of service.”
Garcia was paid more than $40,000 a year during his six-year absence. When he was confronted by authorities, he said he had been bullied for his family’s politics and appointed to the management position as a punishment.
The civil servant maintained that he had shown up to work, despite his co-workers testimonies to the contrary, but did so infrequently because he was given virtually no work to do.
Garcia was fined $30,000 for his deception but is currently appealing the judgment. He has since retired.
Garcia’s family and friends said that he did not disclose his self-imposed retirement because he relied upon the paychecks to provide for his family but did not seek other employment because he feared he was too old to be hired.
While the Phantom Official’s six-year absence seems incredible, a government employee in the U.S. has him beat.
In 2010, it was discovered that Howard Dean, a food-services director of the Department of Correctional Services in New York, had skipped every Friday of his 17-year career, according to New York Daily News.
Dean had racked up nearly $500,000 over the years -- $240,000 of which he had charged for travel expenses on his non-existent Friday workdays.