BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – HONOLULU — Hawaii has some of the most generous welfare benefits in the country, and one man took full advantage of them.
The man, who went by the name “Vaughn Sherwood” — a name he apparently stole — took more than $200,000 from taxpayers, the FBI said.
On Thursday, shackled in handcuffs and dressed in a white prison uniform, he pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to four counts related to theft of government property, identity theft and illegal possession of a firearm.
Under oath, “Sherwood,” 67, willingly admitted to using eight names, nine Social Security numbers and six dates of birth to create a variety of identities to take welfare cash, food stamps, student tuition assistance, public housing subsidies and Medicaid.
According to Ron Johnson, the assistant U.S. attorney handling the case, the man inherited $360,000 from his deceased parents and, without disclosing it to the government, hid the cash in two safe deposit boxes at two banks. The federal indictment revealed Sherwood also owned a sailboat and a jet boat and drove a Mercedes Benz S420.
He lived in an apartment in Waikiki, yet he admitted Thursday he obtained $6,500 in welfare cash payments, $5,800 in food stamps and $24,000 in medical benefits from the state Department of Human Services over nine years. He claimed he was homeless.
Court records also show the man secured $109,000 in Section 8 housing assistance over a 14-year period from the city and county of Honolulu.
Sherwood acknowledged Thursday that his under graduate and master’s degree tuition at the three University of Hawaii campuses were paid with federal student tuition assistance.
Using a false identity and claiming to have heart failure, he applied with the Department of Human Services to be his own caregiver in 2009 and received $8,000 from Medicaid.
He obtained a firearm by mail using a third party, even though he was already a convicted criminal, with a record from 28 years ago for felony assault.
The FBI now knows in 1999 he legally changed his name to Kevin Patrick Halverson in Hawaii, and he stole several other identities, including those of Vaughn Sherwood and Kevin Halverson, who were living in other states.
Federal Magistrate Judge Kevin Chang was unsure what to call him in court and finally settled on “Mr. Halverson.”
“Keeping these public aid scams alive under so many identities was a full-time job for this defendant,” said FBI Special Agent Tom Simon, who worked on the case with other federal investigators and the Department of Human Services. “If only he would have put that time to legitimate work, he wouldn’t be sleeping in jail tonight.”
The man has been held in federal prison since being arrested Oct. 18. His sentencing is set for May 22. He could face up to 22 years in prison and may have to pay restitution and fines.
Reach Malia Zimmerman at Malia@hawaiireporter.com