Woman admits welfare fraud lasting 17 years
HILO » A Big Island woman who pleaded guilty to charges related to stealing $308,000 in welfare benefits over 17 years will be sentenced Jan. 31, the Hawaii County prosecutor announced.
Victoria Donnelly-Korondi, 54, began obtaining welfare in 1983 under the stolen identity of Karen L. Johnston, who died in a car accident in Idaho in 1977, court documents say. She was charged for receiving benefits from 1988 to 2005.
The case is the largest welfare fraud in Hawaii by someone using a false identity, the prosecutor's office said.
On Monday, Donnelly-Korondi pleaded guilty to first-degree theft and second-degree identity theft in return for an agreement by the prosecutor not to seek a sentence of more than 10 years in prison.
At the sentencing, Judge Glenn Hara will consider her request to defer accepting her guilty plea.
Psychologist Bea Austin of Hilo, who referred to her as "Karen," told investigators Donnelly-Korondi was "kept hostage" by her father from age 3 until 16. The father was mentally ill, Austin said.
Her friend Norma Eban told investigators, "She has had a life full of trouble. She was abused and has a lot of emotional problems."
Court documents do not indicate whether those statements were verified.
Social worker Judy Branahan said in a document that Donnelly-Korondi has brass objects that she talks to, "and they talk back to her."
But Branahan warned, "The alleged charges show a high level of sophisticated knowledge to manipulate others."
Two psychiatrists and a psychologist appointed to examine Donnelly-Korondi found her competent to stand trial.
After learning about Donnelly-Korondi from an anonymous tip, authorities eventually discovered she is a Swiss citizen. She was educated in Australia and probably entered the United States through Canada in the early 1980s, the prosecutor's statement said.
She has a son in Hilo and a son and grandson in Switzerland, documents say. Branahan reported Donnelly-Korondi is worried about being deported because she does not know anyone in Switzerland.