The former owner of an Ohio title insurance agency has been sentenced to 12 years in prison and ordered to pay more than $7 million in restitution for allegedly stealing escrow funds from hundreds of individuals and businesses.

Steve Clayton, the former owner of Equity Land Title Insurance Inc., allegedly used a check kiting scheme from 1995 to 2002 to pay previously closed real estate transactions for which he had already spent the funds.

The former owner of an Ohio title insurance agency has been sentenced to 12 years in prison and ordered to pay more than $7 million in restitution for allegedly stealing escrow funds from hundreds of individuals and businesses.

Steve Clayton, the former owner of Equity Land Title Insurance Inc., allegedly used a check kiting scheme from 1995 to 2002 to pay previously closed real estate transactions for which he had already spent the funds.

According to the Ohio Department of Insurance, Clayton spent the stolen money on trips to Disney World, box seats to Cincinnati Bengals and Reds games, tickets to a professional golf tournament, gambling trips to Las Vegas, cruises and expensive cars. Some of the victimized people and businesses with title insurance have been made whole by several title insurance companies and banking institutions.

The scheme was discovered in 2002 after a routine audit by underwriter First American Title Insurance, and Clayton’s agent license was suspended. Ohio this year instituted mandatory annual reviews of title agents’ escrow accounts by certified public accountants.

Clayton was found guilty of multiple counts of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, aggravated theft, and money laundering. His sentence was handed down Aug. 25 in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas.

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