Grand jury indicts 2 for welfare fraud

A Hilo grand jury returned indictments Sept. 18 in separate, unrelated welfare fraud cases.

A single-count indictment charges Clynel Batino, also known as Clynel Puahala, with first-degree theft.

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According to the document, between Nov. 1, 2017, and Oct. 31, 2017, Batino “intentionally obtained and exerted control over … public assistance benefits and/or Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits … by deception.”

The document states she knew the value of the property alleged to have been obtained fraudulently from the state exceeds $20,000.

First-degree theft is a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment upon conviction.

A bench warrant issued with the indictment set Batino’s bail at $5,000.

A check of court records for Batino showed no prior criminal record in Hawaii and only traffic infractions under the name Puahala.

Another single-count indictment charges Noah Gauthier with second-degree theft.

According to the document, between April 1, 2014, and Oct. 31, 2016, Gauthier fraudulently received public assistance benefits and/or SNAP benefits. The indictment states the value of the allegedly stolen property exceeds $750 but is below the $20,000 threshold for first-degree theft.

Second-degree theft is a Class C felony punishable by up to five years imprisonment upon conviction.

A bench warrant issued with the indictment set Gauthier’s bail at $2,000.

A check of court records for Gauthier turned up a 2014 conviction for unauthorized control of a stolen vehicle, a Class C felony. He was allowed a deferred acceptance of a no contest plea in that case, but a later arrest caused the court to reinstate a conviction and sentence of four-years probation in that case.

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He also was convicted of second-degree theft in a 2015 case and sentenced to probation, but that conviction was later vacated and Gauthier was acquitted by reason of penal irresponsibility, which means the court found that Gauthier didn’t have the mental capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his actions at the time of the alleged offense.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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