Crime & Courts

Bookkeeper faked change to banker’s $20M will, cheating Kansas university out of money

Prosecutors and defense attorneys are recommending that a woman serve probation and donate money to a Kansas university after trying to cheat the school out of most of a deceased banker’s $20 million will.

Wanda Oborny, 66, of Hays, pleaded guilty Friday to one count of mail fraud, U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said in a news release. Oborny had originally been charged with seven counts of mail fraud, federal court records show.

She admitted in her plea that in 2013 she mailed a fake codicil — a modification to a will — that falsely claimed Kansas banker Earl O. Field wanted to leave her half of his estate, court documents show. The change to the will would have given a quarter of the estate to the banker’s lawyer and the remaining quarter to Fort Hays State University.

Field’s real will had directed nearly all of his more than $20 million estate to go to the university, his alma mater, Kansas appellate court records show. Field and his wife, Winona “Nonie” Field, had no children and bequeathed the vast majority of their estate to FHSU. The money was to go to the university’s foundation to fund music and athletic scholarships for students.

Court documents state that Oborny had been Field’s part-time bookkeeper. She filed the modification to the will that would have left her with half of the estate. But the letter she said she found in Field’s desk the night of his death had no witness signatures.

A district court, as well as the appeals court, found that Oborny or someone other than Field typed and forged his signature on the codicil. The court said that at his advanced age, Field was no longer able to type and couldn’t sign his name with the fluidity on the fake codicil.

Oborny’s plea petition reads in part: “I, Wanda Oborny, with the intent to defraud, knowingly devised and/or participated in a scheme and artifice to obtain money by materially false and fraudulent pretenses and representations.”

Field’s online obituary states that he died Feb. 19, 2013, at age 98. He owned Field Abstract and Title Company in Hays and later served as president of the alumni association of Fort Hays State University.

Attorneys in the federal court case agreed to recommend Oborny pay no fine or restitution. Instead, the plea deal suggests she serve a year of probation, pay a $100 special assessment and make a $1,200 charitable donation to the university.

Sentencing in the federal criminal court case is scheduled for May 29.

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