As America was honoring its war dead last week, police in Delaware County were investigating a "parasite" who they say sank to a new low just to make a few bucks - by burglarizing the home of an ailing Vietnam veteran who had checked into the hospital.

Danny Vay, 29, of Upland, was busted yesterday and charged with kicking in the back door of John Nuttall's home on Church Street last month and stealing jewelry.

"It's a low thing to do, especially at this time of year," said Upland Police Chief John Easton.

"We're celebrating Memorial Day and remembering our veterans, and here comes this lowlife who took advantage of the guy's situation and just capitalized on it," he said.

Nuttall, 61, who is still undergoing treatment at the Coatesville VA Medical Center, told police who visited him at the hospital that his house had been burglarized in October and January. Nuttall was unaware of the most recent incident, in which Vay allegedly stole Nuttall's father's engraved gold ring and pawned it.

Upland Police Investigator Michael Curran said that it appears that Vay, who has prior convictions on robbery, drugs and weapons charges, "does odd jobs for people, and then burglarizes them." He was arrested yesterday while mowing a lawn on 6th Street.

"He preys on weak senior citizens, and that will not be tolerated in Upland Borough," Curran said. "I think it's an absolute disgrace for him to burglarize and steal from a war veteran."

Vay is a potential suspect in the prior break-ins at Nuttall's house, but there is no evidence yet to link him to those, and Vay has not cooperated with police or admitted to any crimes.

"He blames it on everyone else," Curran said. "He 'didn't do nothing.' "

Vay also has been charged with resisting arrest and drug possession. When police found two bags of heroin in his pants pocket yesterday, he responded, "These are not my pants," according to the criminal complaint. Police say he has provided the same explanation in the past when busted with drugs.

"He's a parasite on society," Curran said.

But a neighbor on Church Street, where Vay used to live, insists that the cops got him all wrong.

"I'm very surprised," said the neighbor, who knows Vay but declined to give her name. "He's a wonderful dad, he's faithful to his woman and he's a hard worker.

"And he knows how to make a buck," the woman said. "Jack of all trades." *