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Vintner's Kitchen owner will serve time for fraud

A disbarred New Hampshire attorney who became a Southern Oregon jelly and jam maker was ordered to repay $1 million in funds stolen from clients' real estate loans and sentenced to almost four years in federal prison.

Robert Steuk, who owns and operates Vintner's Kitchen in Talent with his family, pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud in June. A New Hampshire District Court judge on Wednesday sentenced Steuk to 41 months in federal prison. The judge also placed the 62-year-old on three years of supervised probation following his release, court records show.

Steuk was also ordered to pay restitution of almost $1 million as part of a June plea agreement during which he admitted misappropriating the money from client escrow accounts and making illegal wire transfers, said U.S. Attorney John P. Kacavas in a press release.

Steuk operated Warranty Title Company, LLC, a title services company that primarily focused on closings related to the refinancing of real estate.

An audit of Warranty Title's escrow account determined that from April 1, 2005, through Aug. 9, 2007, Steuk stole money from at least 36 victims, resulting in the closure of his company. He illegally wired at least 19 separate sums of third-party money ranging between $10,000 and $130,000 to accounts held by himself or family members, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Feith.

Some of the money went to pay salaries to his wife, Barbara, and children, including payments of $67,000 to Kristin Steuk and $27,100 to Robert L. Steuk, court records show. According to the Vintner's Kitchen website, the family works together to produce a line of 20 wine- and spice-infused products.

Steuk could not be reached for comment today but told the Mail Tribune in June that he had repaid a "substantial part" of money from Warranty Title accounts.

The initial tally of Steuk's fraudulent transfers was listed as $1.3 million. As part of the plea agreement, Steuk and federal prosecutors agreed to stipulate that the losses were more than $400,000 and less than $1 million. Steuk remains responsible for repayment of $930,946.90, Kacavas said.

— Sanne Specht

Vintner's Kitchen owner will serve time for fraud