Kihei man given chance to keep welfare fraud off record

WAILUKU — A Kihei man who said he didn’t want to lose his job has been given a chance to keep welfare fraud and theft convictions off his record.

Brian Schiffman, 51, was ordered to perform 100 hours of community service as part of his sentence on April 10.

“I don’t appreciate people who cheat,” 2nd Circuit Judge Rhonda Loo said in sentencing Schiffman. “I don’t like people who cheat on their taxes. I don’t like people who cheat on their spouses. And I don’t like welfare cheats.

“You are a welfare cheat. You did receive benefits that you did not qualify for.”

Schffman had pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of third-degree theft and welfare fraud for collecting benefit overpayments from June 2015 to April 2016 after not reporting a change in his employment.

In an initial investigation by the state Department of Human Services, the amount of the overpayment to Schiffman and his then-wife was calculated at $18,918, according to a declaration by defense attorney William Sloper. The amount was recalculated to $3,060 after further investigation, including a review of Schiffman’s business banking records and personal tax returns, the declaration said.

Schiffman was fired from his job as a driver for Uber after the company discovered the pending criminal case, Sloper said. In asking for a deferral of the charges, Schiffman was hoping to be able to keep his job as a Lyft driver, Sloper said.

“Over the last several months, the shared driving companies are under greater pressure for their drivers not to be having any type of criminal record,” Sloper said. “Even a misdemeanor nonviolent offense, Mr. Schiffman is afraid, will cause him to lose his job at Lyft.”

Sloper said Schiffman has no prior criminal history and is a combat veteran.

Schiffman said he was sent to Panama while in the Army in 1989 and was activated for the Los Angeles riots in 1992 as a California National Guard member.

He said he and his wife had a struggling business and had dropped their health insurance when she had a health scare, leading him to get a job at Longs.

“I knew she needed health insurance so she could get proper care,” he said.

Schiffman said it didn’t occur to them that they needed to make changes in their application for welfare benefits.

Judge Loo asked who was more culpable — Schiffman or his wife, who also was charged in the case.

Schiffman said he was.

“I submitted false pay stubs because I thought it was easier,” he said.

“The easy way is not always the right way,” Loo told him. “The easy way turns out to be the wrong way, as you found out.”

Schiffman was given credit for six days he spent in jail.

He was given the chance to keep the convictions off his record if he follows court requirements for one year.

His former wife, Kristen Schiffman, 47, also was given a one-year deferral when she was sentenced last year for the same charges. She already had paid the $3,060 in restitution.

In another sentencing April 10, a 45-year-old man was ordered to serve a 60-day jail term as part of one year’s probation for threatening an employee with a hammer in the Lowe’s parking lot.

Martin Pestana had pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of second-degree terroristic threatening.

His vehicle had been parked in the Lowe’s lot for several days when, on Oct. 5, a store loss-prevention officer approached Pestana, who was sleeping in the vehicle, and asked him to leave, said Deputy Prosecutor Annalisa Bernard Lee.

She said Pestana became angry and began swearing and yelling at the employee before taking a tool from the back of his truck and threatening to kill the loss-prevention officer.

When co-workers showed up, Pestana drove off. “With a flat tire, you can’t get very far,” Judge Loo said.

She said police found Pestana hiding in tall grass in a field adjacent to Lowe’s.

Pestana said he turned himself in after police had been looking for him for several hours.

Loo said she sentenced Pestana to additional jail time after he missed appointments after being released on supervision before his sentencing.

“There are lows and there are highs,” she said. “Stay away from Lowe’s Home Improvement and the field surrounding Lowe’s. No more camouflage action in the tall grass.”

Pestana was ordered to perform 100 hours of community service.