Woman sentenced in insurance fraud case

WAILUKU – A Lahaina woman who filed a false insurance claim after her hotel room was burglarized on Oahu was ordered to pay a $2,500 fine and perform 150 hours of community service.

Andrea Mills, 52, was denied a chance to keep convictions for insurance fraud and attempted second-degree theft off her record when she was sentenced Aug. 13.

“With all your education and all your background and all your degrees, you exercised no common sense,” 2nd Circuit Judge Rhonda Loo told Mills.

Loo said surveillance video showed one man entering the hotel room “for basically two and a half seconds.” The burglar was caught as he fled with a purse.

Over a six-month period that followed, an investigation showed that Mills filed false information on insurance claims, at first saying 14 items and eventually 40 items had been stolen with a total value of $36,000.

Noting that Mills has a military background, Loo said, “It sure wasn’t red, white and blue of you to try to cheat an insurance company.”

Mills had pleaded guilty to insurance fraud and attempted second-degree theft from USAA General Indemnity Insurance Co. from Oct. 9, 2011, to April 30, 2012.

Deputy Public Defender William “Pili” McGrath said what happened was upsetting to Mills “and may have clouded her judgment.”

In asking that she be given a chance to keep convictions off her record, McGrath said “there’s no chance” that Mills would commit another crime. She has no prior criminal record and is a highly educated military veteran who served as a medic before receiving an honorable discharge, McGrath said.

“She didn’t get a nickel out of this,” he said. “Whatever Andrea did, she didn’t succeed in any of it.”

Special Deputy Attorney General Ryan Shinsato opposed Mills’ request for a deferral of the charges.

“Good people do really bad things sometimes,” he said.

He said Mills first reported to the Honolulu Police Department that $7,800 worth of belongings were stolen. Later, the amount increased, with her claim that her backpack and 44 items were stolen, Shinsato said.

He said the friend who was staying with Mills in the hotel room said none of her belongings were stolen. The video showed one person entering and leaving the room with a purse, which belonged to Mills’ friend, Shinsato said.

“The facts of this case are clear that Ms. Mills didn’t even have a thing stolen from her,” Shinsato said. “Her entire statement just lacks responsibility.”

Judge Loo noted that Mills took no responsibility for the crimes in denying her request to keep the convictions off her record.

In another sentencing on July 30, a 60-year-old Kahului woman was ordered to serve a seven-day jail term and perform 50 hours of community service for shoplifting about $400 in merchandise from Wal-Mart in Kahului.

Judy Whatley had pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of third-degree theft.

“I did not need or want the items,” she said in court. “I just get overwhelmed.”

She said she supports her son and grandson and also attends college.

Deputy Public Defender Jared Brickey said Whatley was angry with her daughter when she went to the store. “Four hundred dollars, to me, is not great monetary value,” he said, disputing comments in a report prepared for Whatley’s sentencing.

Deputy Prosecutor Jeffery Temas said Whatley entered Wal-Mart at 4:10 p.m. Feb. 20 and selected 52 items of merchandise, including pet food, bug spray, beauty products, false eyelashes and a 125-foot hose. She concealed the items in a bag, Temas said, before leaving without paying.

“When most people go to the store for retail therapy, they have money in their pocket,” Judge Loo told Whatley. “The problem is when you went in for your retail therapy, you stole all of these items.”

Whatley had two old Wal-Mart receipts in her hand as she walked out of the store through the garden center. “Don’t tell me you didn’t know what you were doing,” Loo told Whatley. “Don’t tell me this was a lapse of judgment.”

Whatley has prior shoplifting convictions on Maui and in California.

She was ordered to pay a $1,211 fine, representing three times the value of the merchandise stolen, and was placed on one year’s probation. She was ordered not to enter Wal-Mart unless she has permission from her probation officer.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.