The former vice president of a Clayton, Mo., title insurance agency pleaded guilty Wednesday for his role in a $2.8 million mortgage scheme, the St. Louis Business Journal reported.

Thomas Kurzenberger Jr., 37, of Ballwin, Mo., pleaded guilty to one felony count of mail fraud, media accounts said. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine, and restitution is mandatory, accounts said.

Kurzenberger is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 24, 2006, and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine, accounts said.

Between January 2000 and June 2005, Kurzenberger withdrew nearly $2.8 million from several of Title Insurance Agency’s escrow accounts, according to legal documents in the matter. He used $1.25 million to pay his personal credit card bills and the rest for general operating expenses of the company, the court papers said.

In addition, Kurzenberger continued to make escrow agreements and accepted escrow deposits from customers without disclosing that the agency’s escrow accounts were deficient, according to the documents filed in the case.

Columbian National Title Insurance Co. (now First American Title) and Chicago Title Insurance Co. were the underwriters for Title Insurance Agency, court documents said.

Title Insurers Agency collapsed on or about June 28, 2005, according to the court papers. Chicago Title covered in excess of $400,000 of and First American covered in excess of $4.5 million of insufficient funds checks and debts on behalf of Title Insurers Agency, the court documents said.

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