A man who pleaded guilty in September to stealing $145,000 in benefits intended for the widow of a military veteran was sentenced to eight months in prison Monday.
Michael Vanden Brink, 57, admitted that after the widow’s death in 2004, he converted her benefits paid out by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs for his own use.
The widow began receiving Dependency and Indemnity Compensation benefits in 1972 and until her death at her Oceanside home in 2004. Sometime prior to her death, she began to receive those benefits via direct deposit into a bank account in both her name and Brink’s.
The benefits should have ceased upon her death, but although Brink acknowledged he knew he was not entitled to the benefits, as part of his plea he admitted that he received a monthly bank statement for the account and never informed the bank that the benefits should cease.
Between July 1, 2004, until February 26, 2014, Brink had full and complete access to a total of $145,035 rightfully belonging to the United States.
“For almost a decade, this defendant stole thousands of dollars intended to help the families of our brave men and women in uniform,” said United States Attorney Adam L. Braverman. “This prosecution demonstrates the commitment of the United States Attorney’s Office to protecting the integrity of programs for our veterans and their families.”
As a part of his plea agreement, Brink agreed to pay $145,035 in restitution to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.
Brink faced a charge of theft of public property with a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $390,060 fine. In addition to his eight-month sentence, Brink will spend three years in a supervised release program.
“This investigation demonstrates the OIG’s commitment to aggressively pursue individuals who defraud VA programs. The VA OIG will continue to identify criminal activity in order to protect the integrity of VA programs,” said Special Agent in Charge A.E. Pleasant, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, Criminal Investigations Division, Western Field Office.
Brink’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Dec. 10.