A Hilo grand jury on Jan. 23 indicted two individuals in unrelated cases for alleged financial crimes.
In the first case, 26-year-old Justin A. Balucan is charged with first-degree forgery for allegedly passing counterfeit currency.
Balucan was arrested Nov. 30 in the parking lot of a private business on the 700 block of Kinoole Street in Hilo after allegedly passing $800 in counterfeit bills in a Craigslist transaction for a cellphone, according to police.
Balucan appeared on the charge Jan. 8 in Hilo District Court and was ordered by Judge Kanani Laubach to return Monday (Feb. 4) for a preliminary hearing. The indictment makes the district court case and preliminary hearing moot. Balucan will be re-arrested on a bench warrant issued with the indictment and the case will move to Hilo Circuit Court.
First-degree forgery is a Class B felony punishable by up to five years imprisonment upon conviction.
Balucan is free on $5,000 bail.
The second indictment is a welfare fraud case.
According to the document, Shantel Okinishi, also known as Shantel Reyes, is charged with first-degree theft for illegally receiving more than $20,000 in public assistance and/or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, commonly known as food stamps.
The indictment alleges Okinishi intentionally defrauded the state out of the benefits during a 4 1/2 year period between June 1, 2012, and Nov. 30, 2016.
First-degree theft is a Class B felony.
A bench warrant was issued for Okinishi’s arrest, with bail set at $2,000.
A search of court records turned up no felony convictions for either suspect.
Email John Burnett at email@example.com.