Miami, Florida – A South Florida veteran (and self-proclaimed bodybuilder) who exaggerated his mental and physical impairments to increase the disability payments he received from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pled guilty yesterday to theft of government funds from a federal agency and now faces up to 10 years in federal prison.
As part of his guilty plea, Zachary Barton, 36, admitted he lied on a mental health test by reporting to the VA that he had been in combat, qualifying him for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder benefits. Barton also falsely reported that he could not lift more than 10 to 20 pounds or walk without a cane. The VA found that Barton was 100% disabled based on these lies. In fact, Barton routinely performed strenuous weight-lifting – leg pressing 650 pounds and chest pressing over 300 pounds. He drove, walked his pet, and shopped with no difficulty.
As a result of his misrepresentations, Barton received approximately $245,286 in VA benefits to which he was not entitled. Sentencing is scheduled for August 11, 2022, in Fort Pierce before Judge Aileen M. Cannon.
Juan Antonio Gonzalez, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and David Spilker, Special Agent in Charge, VA Office of the Inspector General, Southeast Field Office, announced the guilty plea.
This case was investigated by the Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of the Inspector General. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Robin Waugh. Assistant United States Attorney Gabrielle Charest-Turken is handling asset forfeiture.
Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or at http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov, under case number 21-cr-80106.