- Associated Press - Friday, June 3, 2016

WAILUKU, Hawaii (AP) - A Molokai woman has been ordered to repay thousands of dollars in welfare benefits that she collected while not reporting changes in her income.

Desarae Kahoiwai, 28, was ordered to repay the $13,814 and perform 400 hours of community service as part of four years of probation, reported The Maui News (https://bit.ly/288vCGG). Second circuit Judge Richard Bissen imposed the sentence Thursday.

“You figured out a way to get more money than you deserved,” Bissen said. “You know who you’re taking it from? Your neighbors on Molokai. Those are the people that need this assistance. You were making good money.”

Kahoiwai pleaded no contest to theft and welfare fraud for collecting welfare overpayments from January to September 2013 and March 2014 to February 2015, according to court records. She asked for a chance to keep the conviction off her record.

“I take full responsibility,” she said. “I have learned a great lesson about myself, that negligence has a great consequence.”

Defense attorney Gina Gormley says Kahoiwai was a full-time student, working one job and looking for another.

“She’s also caring for her two children,” Gormley said. “She’s the breadwinner in the household. She’s a hard worker.”

Prosecutors opposed Kahoiwai’s request, saying she didn’t report changes in her income at least five times.

“This was a long scheme where the defendant, over a course of months, filled out multiple forms,” said Deputy Prosecutor Kerry Glen. “She purposefully hid her increase in income.”

Glen pointed out that Kahoiwai, a part-time employee with hours that varied week to week, submitted pay stubs when she worked fewer hours. But on weeks when she worked more, said Glen, Kahoiwai submitted letters saying she worked 20 hours a week.

“She wouldn’t have been denied,” said Bissen. “She would have gotten less. But she was greedy. To try to tell me that this was negligence and this was an accident and this was an oversight is amazing and borders on lying to the court.”

He denied her request to keep her convictions off her record.

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Information from: The Maui News, https://www.mauinews.com

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