PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - A former agent cashier at the H. John Heinz III Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center has pled guilty to multiple counts of embezzlement after he was accused of stealing funds from patients over nearly a yearlong span.
According to the Department of Justice, 51-year-old Corey Mizell pled guilty to four counts of embezzlement by an officer or employee of the United States, and one count of mail fraud.
Mizell began working for the VA in April 2020 as an agent cashier and his role was taking veteran benefits checks to be deposited into patient accounts.
A little under a year later, the sister of a deceased veteran reached out the VA Police to report that there were discrepancies with her brother's account. She said that her brother was bedridden due to his disability as well as the COVID-19 pandemic and was unable to spend the amount of cash withdrawn from his account.
An investigation from the VA Police found that there was one teller who conducted each withdrawal and that was Mizell.
Initially, Mizell claimed that someone must have misrepresented their identity to make the withdrawals and that Mizell was an easy target because he had just begun working there.
However, the investigation found that he would call for authorization to get funds from patients who were either on lockdown due to the pandemic or could not leave their rooms without assistance due to their disability.
Later, Mizell was interviewed by the Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General and he confessed in a written statement that he had been taking the money, saying he was "fraudulently taking money...from accounts of veterans."
The estimated total came out to $17,660 and Mizell claimed he did it due to losing income during the pandemic and unpaid bills.
Mizell resigned from the VA in April 2021.
Despite his resignation, the investigation continued and found that he had taken another $1,175 in cash from another veteran's account.
Mizell also used his VA-provided computer to apply for unemployment and pandemic benefits. He applied for benefits that were only provided if people were unemployed due to the pandemic but able to work.
In all, Mizell collected a total of $38,400 in unemployment pandemic benefits from April 2020 until September 2021.
He will be sentenced on March 18, 2024 and is facing a total of up to 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 or both.
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