A former employee of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services has been charged with wire fraud after allegedly failing to disclose the death of a disabled man under DHS guardianship and collecting his disability benefits for her personal use. According to her Oklahoma City fraud lawyer, Katharine A. Daugherty, 57, of Bethany, is expected to plead guilty to the felony charge. Daugherty, who has more than thirty years experience as a DHS employee, retired in 2011 after learning that she was under investigation. According to court records, she was the overseer of the financial accounts of a former Federal Aviation Administration employee who was receiving disability benefits from the United States Department of Labor. When the man was admitted to a nursing home in 2009, Oklahoma DHS was given guardianship of the man. In March 2010, the man died, and Daugherty allegedly failed to notify the U.S. Department of Labor of his death and forged his signature on a benefits eligibility statement more than a month after his death. She is accused of misleading the Labor Department to believe that the man was still alive and a resident of the nursing home, collecting his disability benefits for more than a year. According to federal prosecutors, Daugherty fraudulently collected more than $27,000 from the U.S. Labor Department as a result of her scheme. If convicted, Daugherty, who is already on probation for a felony check charge, faces a possible sentence of up to twenty years in prison. She must also pay restitution to the United States Department of Labor. Prosecutors wish to garnish funds from her retirement account to obtain restitution. The Federal wire fraud statute falls under Title 18, Section 1343 of the United States Criminal Code. The statute was enacted in 1952 as part of the Communications Act Amendment, and it was intended to expand existing mail fraud statutes to encompass new technologies. Wire fraud is an intentional scheme to obtain money by fraudulent pretenses by making materially false representations, with transmission by wire, radio, or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce. The transmission definition is broad enough to cover virtually all technologies. Because of the inclusion of interstate commerce, the United States federal government has jurisdiction over wire fraud cases.
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