WICHITA — “I wish to plead guilty, your honor,” Wanda Oborny, 66, Hays, said Friday morning in federal court, in a plea agreement that could keep Oborny out of prison for the mailing of a fraudulent codicil to the rightful recipients of a millionaire’s estate.
Oborny faced seven counts of mail fraud and a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in confinement, followed by up to three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000.
Under the plea agreement, six counts were dismissed with the remaining count of mail fraud against Fort Hays State University, which would have lost the most if Oborny’s attempt to garner most of Earl O. Field’s over $20 million estate had succeeded.
The plea agreement calls for Oborny to have 12 months of probation and to make a charitable donation of $100 a month for 12 months to Fort Hays State University. Oborny also is to make the court’s standard $100 special assessment.
Formal sentencing is scheduled for May 29 in U.S. District Court, Wichita.
Dressed in a black pantsuit and white blouse, the former part-time bookkeeper for Field appeared before U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten in a proceeding that took about a half-hour. The courtroom was mostly empty and no family members sat in the audience. Oborny declined to comment after the hearing.
Oborny routinely answered Marten’s questions with a “Yes, your honor” or a “No, your honor,” but paused when asked at one point to verify what made her guilty.
“For me to accept a guilty plea,” Marten said, Oborny had to acknowledge what she had done.
Marten then described what was in the plea agreement statement of guilt and Oborny responded with, “Yes, your honor.”
Oborny’s voice revealed emotion and grew hushed at times. Marten repeatedly described the ramifications of a plea agreement and a guilty plea.
She might lose her right to vote and to serve on a jury and to own a gun and ammunition, he said. By pleading guilty, he said, “you are going to a have a criminal history.
Field’s will named relatives and farm business associates, with most going to Fort Hays State University. It did not name Oborny. The fraudulent codicil that Oborny had entered in probate court gave one-fourth to the university, one-fourth to Field’s attorney Joseph Jeter, and the rest to Oborny.
Longtime friends of Oborny’s, Steve and Kathy Little, signed the fake codicil as witnesses to Field’s alleged signature. The Littles later died in a murder-suicide after a federal investigation was underway.
“Is that your signature?” Marten asked of Oborny’s signature on the plea agreement.
“It is, your honor,” she answered.