Former OCCC Employee Pleads Guilty to Federal Wire Fraud

As part of a plea agreement arranged by her Oklahoma federal defense lawyer, a former bursar for the Oklahoma City Community College has pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud charges.  Brandi J. Henson, 49, of Yukon, admitted to using her access to the college's accounts to embezzle nearly $400,000 over the course of seven years as an OCCC bursar.  At her plea in U.S. District Court, Western District of Oklahoma, Ms. Henson stated, "I am guilty and do not want to make this any more costly or painful for anyone than it already is."  She has agreed to pay restitution to the college as part of her plea agreement, and she also faces fines of up to $250,000 and up to 20 years in prison when she is sentenced in approximately 90 days. According to investigators, Brandi Henson manipulated account records so that refunds issued to students for tuition and books were also issued to her personal credit card.  Because refunds are processed outside of Oklahoma through an online PayPal account, the embezzlement was charged as a federal crime.  Investigators began looking into the situation in July 2011 when the credit card company that processed the refunds became suspicious of several transactions.  Henson, who began working for the college in 1990 and became bursar in 2003, resigned in September. The federal statute prohibiting wire fraud was enacted by Congress in 1952 in an effort to expand existing mail fraud laws to encompass new technologies.  In most cases, wire fraud is punishable by a prison sentence of up to 20 years, but if the victim of the fraud is a financial institution, such as a bank, the penalty may be enhanced for a possible sentence of up to 30 years in prison. As a state offense, embezzlement in Oklahoma is generally punished less severely than a federal white collar offense.  For example, embezzlement of more than $25,000 as a state offense is punishable by restitution, fines of up to $10,000, and a prison sentence of up to 10 years.  In the case of Ms. Henson, because the fraud crossed state lines and became a federal offense, the potential prison sentence is doubled, and the potential fine is 25 times greater. Because federal offenses are generally punished more severely than state offenses, it is imperative that anyone charged with a federal crime seek counsel from an attorney who is experienced in criminal defense in U.S. District Court.  To speak with an experienced federal criminal lawyer regarding your case, call our Oklahoma City law firm at 405-418-8888.

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