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Former beauty queen pleads guilty in massive ID theft case

By Nelson Daranciang

LAST UPDATED: 10:30 p.m. HST, Jan 19, 2011

Former beauty queen Susan E. Shaw pleaded guilty in state court this morning to 140 theft, identity theft, credit card theft, forgery and other charges. 

She faces a possible life prison term with the possibility for parole when a state judge sentences her in May.

Her lawyer Myles S. Breiner said Shaw, 36, pleaded guilty after the prosecutor refused to negotiate a reduction of the five most serious charges from class A to class B felonies. The change would have made Shaw eligible for diversion of her case to drug court and probation.

Breiner said a doctor recently diagnosed Shaw as suffering from a spectrum of mental health issues, including schizophrenia, post traumatic stress syndrome and depression from abuse she suffered as a child. He said Shaw committed the crimes because of financial stress.

"Her and her husband were struggling to support themselves, their lifestyle, their children. They didn't want their children to want for anything," he said.

She pleaded guilty to stealing more than $160,000 from seven credit card companies.

Shaw's lifestyle included purchasing designer clothes and accessories; frequent travel to California, where she had a boyfriend and a rented condominium; and overseas travel.

Police in California said they recovered personal information of 40 to 50 Oahu residents in Shaw's Manhattan Beach condominium. They also recovered hotel and airline gift cards purchased using the identities of those 40 to 50 people.

The class A felonies carry a mandatory 20-year prison term. But Deputy City Prosecutor Chris Van Marter has said he will seek an enhanced penalty of life in prison with the possibility for parole for Shaw.

"There is no legal, moral or ethical defense to what she did to the 50-plus victims in this case," he said.

Van Marter said he will decide whether or not to recommend a life prison term after the court does its pre-sentence investigation which could include mental health examination by a doctor other than the one hired by the defense.

He said the doctor who diagnosed Shaw as suffering from mental illness didn't have all the information necessary to make the diagnosis. 

Shaw was the 1992 Miss Hawaii International.

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