FRANKLIN — A Hancock County woman who continued to collect nearly $31,500 in Social Security payments in her mother’s name years after her mother died pleaded guilty Wednesday to a federal charge of theft of public money.

Barbara Phillips, 66, of Franklin, appeared at a hearing in U.S. District Court in Bangor before Judge John Woodcock Jr. and waived her right to have her case presented to a grand jury.

Phillips’ mother, Phyllis Konopka, was legally collecting Social Security benefits as the surviving spouse of a retiree until her death on May 27, 2010. But after Konopka’s death, Phillips continued to have access to her mother’s checkbook and repeatedly withdrew direct-deposit overpayments from the Social Security Administration, according to a prosecution document.

Phillips drafted at least 16 checks from her mother’s account to herself between Aug. 4, 2011, and Dec. 12, 2013, for a total of $31,496, Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Ruge said in the prosecution document.

“Many of these withdrawals were for several thousand dollars each,” Ruge wrote.

Federal agents interviewed Phillips on July 16, 2014, and she confessed, according to Ruge.

Woodcock allowed Phillips to be freed on a $5,000 secured cash bond, to be paid by May 26, pending her unscheduled sentencing date.

Phillips faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000.

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