A 41-year-old Paauilo woman pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a welfare fraud-related charge.
Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura ordered Clynel Batino, also known as Clynel Puahala, to appear for trial on Feb. 11, 2020.
Batino is charged with a single count of first-degree theft on an indictment returned Sept. 18 by a Hilo grand jury.
According to the document, between Nov. 1, 2014, and Oct. 31, 2017, Batino “intentionally obtained and exerted control over … public assistance benefits and/or Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits … by deception.”
According to Deputy Prosecutor Kevin Hashizaki, Batino is accused of fraudulently obtaining $31,873 in SNAP benefits throughout the three-year period.
The threshold for first-degree theft is $20,000. The offense is a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment upon conviction.
Nakamura advised Batino that because she’s charged with a felony, she’s not allowed to have any firearms or ammunition, and if she has either, she’s to turn them over to police within 48 hours.
A check of court records for Batino showed no prior criminal record in Hawaii and only traffic infractions under the name Puahala.
Batino, who was accompanied in court by Deputy Public Defender Jeff Ng, is free on $5,000 bail.
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