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NEWS from the Office of the New York State Comptroller
Contact: Press Office 518-474-4015

DiNapoli: Two Arrested for Stealing More Than $200,000 From 86-Year-Old State Pensioner

Caretaker Scheme Led to Horrendous Living Conditions, Home Foreclosure and Squatting

May 14, 2024

State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, Rensselaer County District Attorney Mary Pat Donnelly and the New York State Police today announced the arrests of Amber Diacetis, a 30-year-old Albany resident, and Devin Zielinski, 33, for allegedly stealing over $200,000 from an elderly victim.

“Exploiting a vulnerable senior citizen to enrich yourself is a heinous offense,” DiNapoli said. “Diacetis and Zielinski not only allegedly stole over $200,000 from the victim, but forced an elderly man and pensioner to live in squalid conditions. Thanks to my partnership with Rensselaer DA Donnelly, the State Police, and the Schodack Police Department they will be held accountable for their crimes, and the victim has received needed care and services.”

New York State Police Superintendent Steven G. James said, “This joint investigation revealed these individuals perpetuated a devious scheme to take advantage of a vulnerable pensioner, placing them in unlivable conditions. There was no regard for the victim’s well-being, who trusted and depended on Diacetis and Zielinski as caregivers. I applaud the work done by our State Police members, the State Comptroller’s Office, Rensselaer County District Attorney’s Office, and Schodack Police Department for their work in ending this deceit.”

The victim, an 86-year-old New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) pensioner, met Diacetis through an online service. Diacetis then introduced the victim to Zielinski and the two then allegedly schemed to convince the victim to become his live-in caregivers.

The victim, whose wife had died many years before and had no other direct support, received a monthly income of $3,526.70 for his pension and $2,138.60 from Social Security. The subjects persuaded the victim to agree to have them ostensibly pay his bills for him. However, the subjects did not pay the victim’s mortgage and property taxes or other bills for four years, causing the home to be placed in foreclosure, his vehicle to be repossessed, and his electricity to be turned off due to an overdue balance. Meanwhile, the defendants used the money for their personal entertainment. The victim was unaware his bills were not being paid due to his isolation and condition.

After becoming aware of suspicious financial transactions in the victim’s account, the victim’s son and daughter-in-law reached out to DiNapoli’s office because the victim was a NYSLRS pensioner receiving monthly retirement payments. DiNapoli’s office then partnered with DA Donnelly’s office and the State Police to investigate the alleged crimes.

Between Jan. 2018 - Aug. 2023, a total of $338,000 in pension and Social Security Income (SSI) were deposited into the victim’s account. The investigation revealed that the defendants allegedly made more than $200,000 in cash withdrawals. In addition, a CashApp account was opened in the victim’s name without the victim’s knowledge. The subjects also used the victim’s accounts to purchase personal items, as well as pay for child support.

In addition to the alleged theft, the defendants’ actions caused the victim to live in deplorable conditions: the toilet and shower in the home were inoperable, animal feces were on the floor and the victim was found in need of care. He was subsequently provided with the necessary treatment and services and is no longer living in his house.

Zielinski remained in the home after the victim was removed and foreclosure proceedings began. Zielinski currently resides at the property in a squatter capacity.

The arrests were a result of a joint investigation between Comptroller DiNapoli’s Office, the Rensselaer County District Attorney’s Office, the New York State Police Department, and the Schodack Police Department. The Rensselaer County Adult Protective Services also provided assistance.

Diacetis and Zielinski were both charged with grand larceny in the second degree. Diacetis appeared before Judge Paul Peter in Schodack Town Court on May 13. Zielinski appeared before Judge Jonathan Bernstein in Sand Lake Town Court on May 10. Their next court appearances are scheduled for June 12 in Schodack Town Court.

The charges against the defendants are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.

Since taking office in 2007, DiNapoli has committed to fighting public corruption and encourages the public to help fight fraud and abuse. New Yorkers can report allegations of fraud involving taxpayer money by calling the toll-free Fraud Hotline at 1-888-672-4555, by filing a complaint online at, or by mailing a complaint to: Office of the State Comptroller, Division of Investigations, 8th Floor, 110 State St., Albany, NY 12236.