Woman embezzled to pay casino debts

Sunday, June 8, 2003

CLAYTON, Mo. -- A former St. Louis County employee who said casino debts drove her to embezzle nearly $800,000 has been sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Margaret King, 48, of House Springs, said at her sentencing hearing Friday that her son's suicide had left her depressed and addicted to gambling.

A county employee since 1983, King became head cashier in the Recorder of Deeds' office in 1997. From 1996 until she was caught in October 2001, she stole money from a cash drawer -- usually $800 to $1,200 a day, according to prosecutors.

King pleaded guilty in March to 12 counts of stealing. Money taken before 1998 wasn't included due to a statute of limitations.

Her tearful statements in court Friday were countered by a prosecutor's request that she receive the maximum sentence of 14 years.

"It was a very difficult decision for the court to reach," St. Louis County Circuit Judge Larry Kendrick said in ordering King to spend 12 years behind bars.

The money that King stole came from the county, but her scheme left Investors Title Co. with the loss.

Police said title companies provided a signed, blank check to the recorder's office each day. A clerk would total the company's transactions and fill in the amount to be paid.

King's scheme involved taking money from the cash drawer holding payments for such things as marriage licenses, then added the identical amount to an Investors Title check.

Her scheme unraveled when Investors Title complained about an overcharge.

The company has filed a lawsuit, scheduled to be heard in October, seeking reimbursement from the county.

King said she wanted to apologize to everyone. She said her husband has suffered and a son moved out of town. A younger child had trouble at school as a result of her actions, she said.

"It has destroyed my life," she said. "It has destroyed my family."

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