The brother of a service-disabled Navy veteran was sentenced in federal court Nov. 1 for the misappropriation of his brother’s Veterans Affairs benefits, according to a press release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania.
United States District J. Nicholas Ranjan sentenced Andrew Ziacik, 57, to one day imprisonment and ordered him to pay a $4,000 fine and $75,000 in restitution to his brother, Paul Ziacik, after pleading guilty.
Ziacik originally entered a plea of not guilty November of 2020, but officially changed his plea to guilty June 2, 2021.
According to court documents, Ziacik acknowledged that between 2013 and 2017, he was the appointed federal fiduciary for a VA beneficiary, meaning that he was responsible for receiving his older brother’s VA income and ensuring that all of his debts were paid.
But in direct violation of the Fiduciary Agreement, Ziacik misappropriated his brother’s VA benefits to purchase for himself — among other things — a Harley Davidson motorcycle, a GMC Sierra truck and a diamond ring, according to court documents.
Between 2013 and 2017, Ziacik made more than 100 unauthorized ATM cash withdrawals, taking a total of $25,647.25, from his brother’s beneficiary account.
He also unlawfully transferred funds from his brother’s account to his own personal accounts 41 times, sending himself approximately $139,950.
According to the press release, Ziacik also failed to provide the VA with complete and accurate records when a formal accounting inquiry was initiated in August 2016.
In a letter to the court, Ziacik wrote about the relationship between the two brothers.
“I was so happy and glad for him to be starting his life on his own and choosing the path he chose,” Ziacik wrote. “While in the Navy, it was the longest time my brother and I have ever been apart.”
Ziacik then wrote about the time his brother surprised him at home while he was on leave from the Navy, hitchhiking all the way to Pennsylvania from Naval Base Kitsap Keyport in Washington.
According to the letter, the next time Ziacik saw his brother, he was lying in a hospital bed on life support from unspecified injuries, spending the summer in a coma.
Ziacik wrote that he’s been taking care of his brother since he was 15, when his brother finally came home after months spent recovering in a VA hospital.
“Paul and I have a special bond,” Ziacik wrote. “We cherish that bond.”
“I am sorry for the inappropriate mishandling of my brother’s dividends that I was responsible for,” Ziacik wrote. “I am ashamed of myself and extremely embarrassed.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric G. Olshan prosecuted the case on behalf of the federal government. The investigation into Ziacik was conducted by the VA’s Office of Inspector General.
Rachel is a Marine Corps veteran and a master's candidate at New York University's Business & Economic Reporting program.