The daughter of a former Westport Representative Town Meeting member avoided a federal court trial set to begin next week by pleading guilty Tuesday to mail fraud stemming from the theft of nearly $313,000 in unemployment benefits on both her and her father's behalf.

Julie Hymans, 41, the daughter of the late Ralph Hymans, admitted her involvement in the 14-year scam in which federal prosecutors numerous aliases and fictitious companies were used by her father.

Hymans faces up to 20 years in prison when she is sentenced in November by U.S. District Judge Mark R. Kravitz.

At age 87, Monroe R. Hymans -- Ralph Hymans' formal name -- pleaded guilty last March to mail fraud. However, the former eight-year member of the RTM suffered a stroke shortly before his scheduled June sentencing and later died.

He had represented RTM District 5, encompassing the Green's Farms area, during four terms on the legislative body during the 1990s and 2000. His late wife, Lynn, was employed in Westport's Building Department until her retirement in 2007.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul McConnell and Christopher Mattei said the investigation showed that from January 1995 to April 2009, Ralph Hymans used aliases and fictitious companies to file unemployment benefits for himself and his daughter. The prosecution charged that he falsely claimed Julie Hymans earned wages at Monroe Management, one of the fictitious companies.

The prosecution further charged they had evidence that Julie Hymans contacted the U.S. Department of Labor in January 2009 to inquire about why they stopped sending her checks. She told them she had worked at Monroe Management and entitled to benefits that should be sent to her home. She repeated the request in March 2009, prompting the Labor Department to mail nine unemployment checks to her.

The Department of Labor oversees the unemployment insurance system. Benefits paid to unemployed workers are financed by taxes paid by state employers.