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Waikiki man accused of welfare fraud ordered held

By Jennifer Sinco Kelleher

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 03:34 p.m. HST, Oct 29, 2013

A Waikiki man accused of welfare fraud despite having a Mercedes-Benz, a sailboat and an inheritance will remain behind bars until his trial.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin Chang on Tuesday ordered that Vaughn Sherwood, 66, continue to be held without bail at the Honolulu Federal Detention Center.

Chang said he was "troubled" by Sherwood's criminal history. According to court documents, Sherwood has felony convictions for possession of narcotic equipment in New Jersey in 1969, assault in Hawaii in 1975 and aggravated assault in Pennsylvania in 1977. Records also show misdemeanor convictions for driving under the influence of liquor in Hawaii in 1982, 1992 and 1996.

During a search of his condominium, agents said they found two rifles and four handguns, which he was barred from possessing.

A criminal complaint alleges Sherwood defrauded the government of more than $200,000 in welfare cash payments, food stamps, housing assistance and student financial aid under stolen identities and his own. The complaint says Sherwood owns a sailboat and a Mercedes-Benz S420 automobile.

Sherwood continued to receive food stamps and medical assistance even though he had inherited more than $300,000 from his parents, according to the complaint.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald Johnson told the judge that even though Sherwood has two academic degrees, he received federal grants and loans for college classes under another identity.

"He has done nothing but commit fraud for the past 20 years," Johnson said. The prosecutor added that agents found various forms of identification under different names at Sherwood's apartment. "Who is he? He has about eight different personas, and he knows nothing but fraud."

Defense attorney Marcus Sierra argued that Sherwood should be released, partly because his last felony is "quite old," showing "that he can lead a law-abiding life."

Sierra said Sherwood doesn't live in luxury. He rents a "little, dingy apartment" with help from the government, the attorney added. He said that if Sherwood were released, he would continue to receive food stamps and medical benefits.

"He will be able to exist outside, relying on those benefits and Social Security," Sierra said. "He's not going to be able to run from this."

Sierra said after the hearing that the benefits will cease while Sherwood is in custody.

He added that the Mercedes is old and worth only $3,000, the sailboat is 40 years old and the inheritance ran out long ago.

"I just don't want people to judge him so harshly without knowing all the facts first," Sierra said, adding that he's not sure his client will be able to pay him.

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Pocho wrote:
Does it really matter what shape his possessions are in? A cheat is a cheat
on October 29,2013 | 12:11PM
twitter6 wrote:
Amen. His photo suggest he has been living the good life and definitely not starving. As to his attorney, give me a break please.
on October 29,2013 | 12:57PM
Jerry_D wrote:
He's not a "cheat" until the law proves it. That is our basic Constitutional right...how sad that we tend to forget that. Until such time that he is proven guilty, he is an innocent man. Therefore, it is unjustified to hold him without bail for this particular crime.
on October 29,2013 | 01:16PM
nitpikker wrote:
oh give me a break! false ids, felon in possession of guns and 300k inheritance?!? i don't need the law to tell me he's not cheating the system.
on October 29,2013 | 03:51PM
cojef wrote:
If he could get on the sailboat, let him sail out on the reefs and see if he could swim to shore which would be very entertaining to witness. A tub of lard floating to shore. Ugh.
on October 29,2013 | 12:15PM
Jerry_D wrote:
So he owns a sailboat...BIG DEAL! I've seen sailboats for sale on Craigslist for as low as $1000 (or trade for something of equally worthless value). A sailboat is not the same thing as a luxury lot, even though this article is slanted that way. So he owns a Mercedes...BIG DEAL! If that Benz is indeed 30 years old, then it's a hunk of junk. Would it be better if he owned a Toyota instead? (What if it were a 2013 Toyota?). So he owns a firearm...BIG DEAL! The judge withheld bail because he owns a firearm?!?! That's PROFILING and is a blatant example of how our liberal Hawaii government is prejudiced against those exercising their second amendment rights. SHAME ON YOU, JUDGE!!!!
on October 29,2013 | 01:12PM
Hanalei13 wrote:
He was brought up on federal charges. Read the article and make sure you know what you're talking about, buddy.
on October 29,2013 | 01:43PM
Shawn211 wrote:
Jeery_D...A cheat is a cheat no matter how you cut him up! SHAME ON VAUGHN AND SHAME ON YOU JERRY_D !!!
on October 29,2013 | 01:55PM
Usagi336 wrote:
Inherited $300,000.00... BIG DEAL! He needed the money to feed his birds.
on October 29,2013 | 02:28PM
sak wrote:
What about the $300,000 inheritance?
on October 29,2013 | 03:09PM
RetiredWorking wrote:
Jerry, the guy is a felon. That's the BIG DEAL! about possessing firearms.
on October 29,2013 | 07:46PM
Jerry_D wrote:
^^^"Luxury YACHT"....not "tot". My bad.
on October 29,2013 | 01:12PM
busterb wrote:
He may own "worthless" stuff, but he's worth about $20K in retainer to the weasel he hired.
on October 29,2013 | 02:31PM
iwanaknow wrote:
Where is the Aloha for an innocent man til proven guilty?
on October 29,2013 | 03:01PM
RetiredWorking wrote:
iwana, no mo Aloha for felons who possess firearms and steal identities to commit fraud.
on October 29,2013 | 07:48PM
HD36 wrote:
The more welfare programs the government implements the more poverty there is. Capitlalism was the greatest system to lift people out of poverty. Now, there are more people getting welfare checks than those getting a check from a full time job. Government workers call in sick 50% more than the private sector. Why? Because they can. In a world without profit motive look what happened to the Soviet Union.
on October 29,2013 | 03:55PM
RetiredWorking wrote:
HD, what does government workers' sick leave benefits have to do with this article?
on October 30,2013 | 03:54AM
andthen wrote:
..just order him to repay every single cent he stole ....andthen some more!!
on October 29,2013 | 05:04PM
Makua wrote:
Apparently the man has two degrees that taught him to cheat the system. He appears to have been cheated a normal life by receiving that 3K inheritance. Things came easy for him and he just kept manipulating the system and enjoying the good life at others expense. At the Fed Det.Center he will see, thru the narrow windows, the lives of others living normal legal lives.
on October 30,2013 | 04:47AM
Mythman wrote:
Marcus Sierra, sounds like a Sierra worthy of trust, unlike another more well known Sierra. There is always more to the story that what a press release drafted by one side portrays it as being. Perceptions rule, however, and no one really bothers with learning anything beyond what someone told them that they want them to believe. What a world. Is this the best the US attorney can do to show us she is doing her job? Careful, Mythman, she might come after you for criticizing her. Big Brother is watching.
on October 30,2013 | 04:52AM
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