Not guilty plea in welfare fraud case

  • CLYNEL BATINO

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.

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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.

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Batino, who was accompanied in court by Deputy Public Defender Jeff Ng, is free on $5,000 bail.

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

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