Oahu man pleads guilty in welfare fraud case
HONOLULU — A Waikiki man with a Mercedes-Benz, a sailboat and an inheritance admitted in court Thursday that he used various identities to illegally receive food stamps and other government benefits.
Kevin Halverson, who also goes by the name Vaughn Sherwood, pleaded guilty to stealing from the government, identity theft and possessing a firearm that he wasn’t allowed to have because he’s a felon.
Halverson, 67, said he used various identities to illegally receive benefits such as medical care, rental subsidies and student tuition assistance.
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, which he used to take classes at Kapiolani Community College and for “living expenses.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald Johnson said Halverson didn’t tell the state he inherited more than $300,000 when his parents died.
“The receipt of that money would have made him ineligible for public assistance benefits,” Johnson said.
Johnson said it was determined one of the identities Halverson used belonged to a man in Wisconsin.
Halverson may owe about $200,000 in restitution, Johnson said, adding that it’s not clear because he may have been legally entitled to some of the money.
Johnson explained that Halverson was born Vaughn Sherwood but changed his name in 1999. The case was originally listed under Sherwood, but U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin Chang said he would refer to him as Halverson because that’s his legal name.
“I used both names, your honor,” he said. “I’m sorry I did, but it was convenient to do so.”
“Hawaii has very generous public aid benefit, and it appears that this defendant took advantage of the state’s generosity through his various schemes,” FBI agent Tom Simon said. “The sheer administrative burden of qualifying for and sustaining public benefits under all these identities must have been a massive undertaking for this defendant.”
Defense attorney Marcus Sierra has said Halverson lived in a “little, dingy apartment,” not in luxury. He added that the Mercedes is old and worth only $3,000, the sailboat is 40 years old and the inheritance ran out long ago.
He faces up to 10 years in prison for stealing government property, up to two years for identity theft and up to 10 years for the firearms possession. A judge could order him to serve the sentences consecutively. Sentencing is scheduled for May 22.
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