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Welfare fraud leads to prison

May 15, 2014
The Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) - A judge sentenced a Waikiki man to nearly five years in prison Wednesday for illegally collecting food stamps and other benefits, saying his theft deprived those who really needed government assistance.

It's especially galling that he stole even though he inherited more than $300,000 when his parents died, U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi said.

Kobayashi sentenced Kevin Halverson to 57 months in prison along with three years of supervised release.

Halverson, who was born with the name Vaughn Sherwood, admitted in February to using various identities to illegally receive benefits such as medical care and student tuition assistance. He changed his name in 1999.

When he pleaded guilty, he said that even though he has a master's degree in geography from the University of Hawaii, he fraudulently received federal grants and loans to take classes at Kapiolani Community College and for living expenses. In addition to stealing government property and identity theft, Halverson pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm that he wasn't allowed to have because of felony convictions.

Prosecutors said he didn't disclose assets including a Mercedes-Benz, a sailboat and the inheritance, which would have made him ineligible for government assistance.

Kobayashi also ordered him to pay about $213,000 in restitution to various agencies including the U.S. Department of Education, the state and the City and County of Honolulu. But Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald Johnson said chances are slim the money will be paid because of Halverson's deteriorating health.

Halverson, 67, who said he has heart problems, apologized in court.

"I've committed a sin, a grave sin," he said, adding that he can't fully explain why he stole. "It was easy. I tried it, and it worked."

Defense attorney Marcus Sierra said Halverson wasn't motivated to work, likening him to those legally entitled to government benefits growing accustomed "to that way of life."

Halverson had received Section 8 rental assistance since 1983, Johnson said. That money could have helped more than 100 families, he said, noting that Oahu's Section 8 program has had a waiting list since 2005.

Halverson also used about a dozen different identities to commit his crimes and even fraudulently applied to be his own caregiver through a government program that pays caregivers to clean and do chores for those who are disabled, FBI Special Agent Tom Simon said.

"One has to wonder why he didn't just put that energy into a legitimate job," Simon said.

 
 

 

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