Karen Strasser Steinke, the former owner of Metro East Title Company, pleaded guilty last week to one count of wire fraud, and one count of structuring financial transactions. Steinke admitted in her plea agreement to stealing funds from escrow accounts overseen by her company in order to have money to gamble. She also confessed to making multiple smaller deposits of cash, known as “structuring”, during 2010 to avoid regulatory requirements triggered by a bank deposit totaling more than $10,000.
Metro East was sued last year by an underwriter that accused the company of failing to deliver $385,000 to the Columbia chapter of the American Legion after the group sold land to the city. According to the lawsuit, the city had paid $475,000 into an escrow account to cover the sale and all associated fees.
Karen Steinke, 65, of Millstadt, faces a maximum sentence of 33 to 41 months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines. It is also expected that she will pay mandatory restitution and serve three years of supervised release after her prison sentence is completed. A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for May 2, 2014.
The investigation of this case was conducted by the Internal Revenue Service with the assistance of the Comubia, IL, police department. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Norman R. Smith.