A former state welfare supervisor, under financial stress in part because of government furloughs, admitted to stealing $1,200 by reopening an old welfare case and funneling the money to his account.
The 58-year-old Hilo man, Cyril Shimokawa, pleaded no contest in Circuit Court on the Big Island to second-degree theft.
Shimokawa had "heavy mortgage payments, heavy credit card payments" and could not handle the 9 percent pay cut caused by the state-mandated furloughs, Deputy Prosecutor Rick Damerville said.
Judge Glenn S. Hara accepted on Jan. 6 Shimokawa’s request for a deferred acceptance of his plea, which would erase the charge from his record after five years if he meets certain terms.
Shimokawa was ordered to serve 14 days in jail, pay back the $1,200 he stole and perform 500 hours of community serv-ice.
Shimokawa stole the money by reactivating a welfare client’s closed case in 2009 and directing that the money be deposited into his account.
When he was caught, he told the investigator that he intended to only borrow the money for a short while and planned to pay it back, a news release from the prosecutor’s office said. The department fired him.
Damerville said Shimokawa was caught early, unlike Germaine Kam, a Department of Human Services employee in Honolulu who stole more than $112,000 in welfare money by withdrawing cash from automated teller machines using multiple electronic benefits transfer cards.
Damerville handled the 2001 case in which Kam, who monitored welfare recipients to ensure they were eligible for welfare assistance, had created fictitious cases for nonexistent people and kept client accounts open that should have been closed in order to steal the money.
Damerville criticized a 50 percent reduction of the DHS criminal investigation staff at a time "when welfare rolls are exploding."
He said the Big Island has one investigator now, and hopes the new administration will consider adding more.