Former beauty queen sentenced to 20 years in prison for ID theft

Published: May. 4, 2011 at 4:55 PM HST|Updated: May. 4, 2011 at 10:49 PM HST
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Susan Shaw
Susan Shaw

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A former beauty queen who went on shopping sprees using the stolen identities of complete strangers was sentenced to 20 years in prison Wednesday.

There was quite a bit of verbal sparring at the hearing. The defense accused the prosecution of grand-standing before the media.

But prosecutors say Susan Shaw engaged in egregious conduct that caused substantial financial harm to her victims.

The woman at the center of what's been described as the largest identity theft case ever in Honolulu says she's sorry.

"There were choices that led me here," Susan Shaw, convicted thief, said. "Regrettably, those choices have harmed eight individuals whose information was used illegally to obtain credit cards."

She claims eight. But prosecutors say Shaw victimized 23 individuals and seven credit card issuers, resulting in about $200,000 in losses.

"A manipulative, cunning, identity thief who had no regard for the harm that she was going to cause to the victims," Chris Van Marter, deputy prosecutor, said.

Prosecutors asked for a 30-year prison sentence. Investigators say Shaw spent money on trips, designer bags and other merchandise, and went to great lengths to conceal her theft scheme, such as intercepting her victims' mail and filling out change of address forms.

"My actions have caused a lot of undue stress and a sense of violation," Shaw said. "I am truly sorry for that."

The defendant in January pleaded guilty to 140 financial fraud counts. She could not get prosecutors to reduce any of the charges, so the best she could hope for was a 20-year prison term.

"For reasons that escape me, the prosecution has chosen to vilify and denigrate Ms. Shaw and place her in the same category as someone who's essentially committed a heinous homicide," Myles Breiner, defense attorney, said.

The defense says prosecutors are exaggerating the loss amount, and that some of the credit cards that Shaw fraudulently obtained were "never activated."

The judge sentenced her to 20 years in prison, and ordered her to pay $68,235.45 in restitution.

"I can understand that my apology may just be mere words today," Shaw said. "However, I am committed to always be mindful of my actions and, hopefully someday, I can make this whole ugly situation into something meaningful."

Breiner wishes the court could have given his client probation, saying Shaw had a pre-existing psychiatric condition that contributed to her conduct, and that she took responsibility for her actions instead of going to trial.

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