BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – HONOLULU – Vaughn G. Sherwood made an art form of scamming local and federal taxpayers during the past 14 years, taking numerous government benefits he was not entitled to, FBI agents said after arresting him in Honolulu on Thursday, October 18.
Sherwood, 66, who had inherited $360,000 from his deceased parents, owned a sailboat and a Yamaha Jetboat, and drove a Mercedes Benz S420 automobile, allegedly defrauded multiple government programs under his own identity and stolen identities, according to an affidavit filed with the U.S. District Court by FBI Special Agent Tom Simon.
The FBI affidavit said Sherwood received welfare cash and food stamps for 9 years from the state Department of Human Services after claiming to be homeless. Using a fraudulent birth certificate, various social security cards, and different names, the affidavit said Sherwood obtained $6,500 in welfare cash payments, $5,800 in food stamps and $24,000 in medical benefits.
Court records also allege Sherwood secured $109,000 in Section 8 housing assistance over a 14-year period from the City & County of Honolulu and obtained $22,000 in tuition assistance at Kapiolani Community College and also enrolled at the Honolulu Community College and University of Hawaii-Manoa using multiple false identities to register for online courses. Both his under graduate and master’s degree tuition at the three University of Hawaii campuses were paid for by federal student tuition assistance, court records show.
Using a false identity and claiming to have heart failure, Sherwood also applied with the Department of Human Services to be his own caregiver in 2009 and received $8,000 as a result from Medicaid, court records said.
In all, the FBI said Sherwood took more than $200,000 in benefits he wasn’t entitled to.
On Thursday, FBI agents arrested Sherwood for “theft of government property.”
In the process of searching his Waikiki condominium, FBI agents recovered two rifles and four handguns that agents said Sherwood was not permitted to possess because of previous convictions including felony assault convictions and possession of narcotic equipment. The affidavit said Sherwood also had three DUI convictions and another for contempt of court.
Sherwood is also being charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, court records show.
The State of Hawaii Department of Human Services, the agency that oversaw the distribution of some of these benefits to Sherwood, assisted the FBI with the investigation.
Simon said the FBI will continue to work with law enforcement partners to ensure that government program defrauders are held accountable for their actions.
“In a week where government money is on everyone’s mind, this case serves as a reminder that theft of taxpayer dollars will not be tolerated,” Simon said.
Under federal law, Sherwood could face 10 years in federal prison for theft and another 10 years in federal prison for firearms violations. He will be detained at the Federal Detention Center at least until his hearing on Thursday, October 24, 2013.