Ill. title company owner admits defrauding clients

EAST ST. LOUIS — The owner of a southwestern Illinois title company faces up to a quarter century in prison after admitting in court that she defrauded clients to support her gambling habit.

Sixty-five-year-old Karen Strasser Steinke of Millstadt pleaded guilty Friday in East St. Louis to charges of wire fraud and structuring financial transactions to avoid currency-reporting requirements.

Authorities say the owner of Metro East Title Co. in Belleville was obligated to hold escrow, settlement and closing funds in a trust account. But investigators say she instead pilfered those funds for gambling.

The company was accused in a federal lawsuit last October of failing to deliver to the American Legion's Columbia chapter $385,000 in proceeds from a land sale to Belleville.

Steinke also faces mandatory restitution when sentenced May 2.