Prison time ordered in welfare-fraud case

LIHU’E — A Westside woman will be spending some time behind bars for committing welfare fraud.

Michelle Hasegawa was sentenced Thursday to six months in prison for defrauding state Department of Human Services officials of $19,755.

Fifth Circuit Court Judge Kathleen N.A. Watanabe pointed out that Hasegawa might have taken away money from somebody more deserving.

Deputy Public Defender John Calma noted that Hasegawa was living in a van.

“She did not have a house to stay in,” said Calma. “All the welfare benefits went to the kids,” he added.

Calma did not say in court how many children Hasegawa has, but he pointed out that one young boy in the courtroom is one of her sons.

Calma also said that his client has two part-time jobs.

Watanabe pointed out that it was not up to the court to determine what a house is under DHS rules. She also pointed out that the two part-time jobs were secured within the last month or so.

Hasegawa will also be disqualified from some DHS benefits, and she will be put on probation when she gets out of prison. Additionally, she will have to pay back DHS leaders.

After the sentencing hearing, Hasegawa was immediately taken away to begin serving time in prison.

According to court records, Hasegawa, 37, of Kekaha, was arrested in March 2005 after being indicted by members of a Kaua’i grand jury.

According to the two-page indictment, Hasegawa faced one count of welfare fraud, one count of medical-assistance fraud, and one count of theft.

According to the indictment, while receiving public assistance, she willfully failed to report a reduction in her living requirements within 30 days.

Additionally, according to the indictment, Hasegawa also made false statements to obtain medical benefits, and the total amount of fraud added up to more than $20,000.

The alleged offenses took place between September 2002 and July 2004.

If convicted on all counts, Hasegawa could have been sent to prison for a maximum of 15 years and 30 days.

In November, in a plea agreement, Hasegawa pleaded guilty to the theft charge, which carried a maximum of 10 years in prison. Additionally, she was also subject to an extended prison term of 10 years, which would have doubled the prison time to 20 years.

Under the plea agreement, the remaining two counts were dismissed.

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