Kaua’i woman called ‘one-woman criminal enterprise’ sentenced to 17 years in prison
Leihinahina Sullivan, whom prosecutors called a “one-woman criminal enterprise,” was sentenced Tuesday in federal court to 17 years in prison and three years of supervised release for long-running schemes on Kauaʻi that involved tax fraud, education fraud and identity theft.
Sullivan, 51 of Līhuʻe, also is required to pay $3.4 million in restitution to various victims and public and private entities and is subject to a penalty of more than $2 million in forfeiture for the criminal proceeds of her offenses.
During sentencing, U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright described the “staggering scope, length and complexity” of her criminal conduct. She had pled guilty to three counts of wire fraud and one county of aggravated identity theft in 2021.
According to court documents and information presented in court, Sullivan perpetrated three fraud schemes beginning as early as January 2011 and lasting through at least July 2019.
She set up a nonprofit on Kauaʻi, offering tax and scholarship help, but instead stole refunds (many she inflated), educational scholarships and financial aid, and identification to drain bank accounts and rack up credit charges.
Sullivan’s tax fraud scheme involved more than $2.8 million in tax loss, mostly in the form of fraudulent tax refunds from the IRS and the State of Hawaiʻi that she and the other individuals were not entitled to receive.
She filed hundreds of false tax returns for herself and for others. The false federal and state tax returns included fictitious expenses, claims for credits and other items Sullivan knew were false when made.
Sullivan did not review these tax returns with the individuals before she filed the tax returns in their names and forged their signatures on many of the returns.
According to further information presented to the court, the second scheme involved educational fraud. For college-bound students, mostly located on Kauaʻi, Sullivan prepared and submitted false student loan, grant, scholarship and financial aid applications and other documents that requested money from public and private educational-based financial assistance and aid providers.
Sullivan transferred some money from students’ financial aid applications to her personal bank accounts and other bank accounts that she controlled, then spent the money on her own personal and other expenses, such as for her home construction, retail purchases and her bills.
In the last fraud scheme, according to information presented to the court, Sullivan used personal identification information of many individuals, such as social security numbers and birth dates, to apply for and use approximately 40 credit cards in other peoples’ names and under their guaranteed lines of credit without their authorization. Sullivan spent more than $1 million on these unauthorized cards.
Prosecutors had asked for a 26-year sentence to ensure she didn’t victimize more people.
“This 17-year sentence holds Sullivan accountable for the damage she caused by her years-long fraudulent schemes, the money she stole from individuals in her community and public and private institutions, and her repeated and willful rejection of the rule of law,” U.S. Attorney Clare E. Connors said in a statement. “This sentence will stop Sullivan from continuing to prey on vulnerable members of our community who unwittingly trusted her manipulation and lies.”
Special Agent in Charge Bret Kressin with the IRS Criminal Investigation Seattle Field Office, said: “Sullivan has spent the last decade spinning a web of lies, committing fraud and not caring who she hurt in the process. But that ends today, as Ms. Sullivan faked it until she made it to a real-life prison sentence.”