A Hawaii man was sentenced Tuesday to 30 days in federal detention for lying on his 2-year-old daughter’s passport application so he could take her on a trip to Mexico without her mother’s knowledge.
Gregory Armin Scher can serve the sentence during 10 consecutive weekends starting in March so that he doesn’t lose his job as a crane operator for Honolulu’s rail transit project and can continue to support his child, U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway ruled.
According to court documents, Scher planned a trip to the U.S.-Mexico coastline despite an informal joint custody arrangement with the mother, who lives in Missouri.
Scher sought help from a congresswoman when the passport application was rejected because it didn’t have the required signatures from both parents. Both parents must sign off on passport applications for minors, in part to prevent children from being taken out of the country in custody disputes.
Scher claimed that the mother had abandoned the girl and was nowhere to be found, according to an affidavit filed by the U.S. State Department agent who investigated.
"The child’s mother is no longer around and not available to sign the minor’s passport application," he stated on the application, according to the agent’s affidavit, filed in April.
The agent found that Scher and the mother communicated almost daily and that the mother didn’t know Scher was planning to take the girl on a trip to Mexico.
"They tried to make it sound like it was a parental kidnapping attempt," he said. "Out of utter frustration, I lied on a passport application."
When the mother was contacted in Missouri, she told the agent she had left Hawaii and made an agreement with Scher that the girl would spend three months with each parent. She said she didn’t know Scher applied for the girl’s passport and didn’t consent to the girl obtaining one.
Scher said the mother wanted to join them on the cruise but that he couldn’t afford it.
"That’s when she dug in her heels and wouldn’t go along with the passport," he said.
The mother couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.
A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa said her office received Scher’s request for help. Spokesman Richard Rapoza said it’s not uncommon for Hanabusa’s office to receive requests for help with immigration and passport issues. He declined to discuss details of Scher’s request and how Hanabusa’s office handled it.
Scher said he contacted the congresswoman because he "didn’t want to miss the cruise, because there’s no refunds."
The maximum sentence Scher could have received was 10 years. Assistant U.S. Attorney Darren Ching said 30 weekend days is "far too insignificant for his criminal history," which he said includes 20 convictions since 1970.
Mollway agreed that his criminal history — including convictions for theft, bad checks, assault and the attempted theft of an airplane — is dangerous, but said she had to balance Scher’s punishment with the impact it would have on those who depend on him financially, including his daughter. She also sentenced him to three years’ probation.
Scher is to report to the Federal Detention Center Fridays at 7 p.m. and will be released at noon on Sundays. Even partial days are counted as full days, Mollway said.