TEXARKANA, Texas – A 31-year-old Texarkana, Texas man has pleaded guilty to Veterans Affairs fraud in the Eastern District of Texas announced U.S. Attorney John M. Bales today.

Tiawa Charles Braxton pleaded guilty to theft of public money today before U.S. District Judge David J. Folsom.

According to information presented in court, from Oct. 1, 2007 to Oct. 1, 2009, Braxton collected a pension for his father, Charles Braxton, even though Charles Braxton had died on Sep. 22, 2009.  The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs pays a pension to wartime veterans who have limited or no income and who are 65 years or older, or if under 65, are permanently disabled.  Under its Fiduciary Program, the VA can appoint a fiduciary to care for an incompetent veteran if it serves the best needs of the government.  The VA appointed Tiawa Braxton to serve as fiduciary for his father.  Tiawa Braxton was notified of his duties as a fiduciary, including his duty not to use the benefits for his personal use, and to notify the VA upon the death of his father, Charles Braxton.

During an attempt to visit and contact Charles Braxton on Sep. 24, 2009, the VA learned from his neighbor that he had died.  The VA later confirmed that Charles Braxton had died on Sep. 22, 2007, but Tiawa Braxton never notified the VA and continued to receive VA benefits in the amount of $45,126 on behalf of his father.  Tiawa Braxton knew that he was required to contact the VA and report his father's death, but willfully chose not to notify them and to use the $45,126 for his personal use.  Braxton was indicted by a federal grand jury on Sep. 1, 2010.

Braxton faces up to five years in federal prison.  A sentencing date has not been set.

This case is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs - OIG and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Denise O. Simpson.