Mequon attorney indicted for allegedly defrauding banks and clients out of millions

A Milwaukee-area attorney has been charged in federal court with defrauding financial institutions and clients, money laundering, and filing a false tax return.

A federal grand jury returned a 33-count indictment Tuesday charging 35-year-old Sarah E.K. Laux, also known as Sarah Kitze, of Mequon with two counts of bank fraud, nine counts of wire fraud, one count of mail fraud, 20 counts of money laundering, and one count of filing a false tax return.

The indictment charges Laux with defrauding four different clients to whom Laux provided trust and estates advice. Laux gained access to client funds through her solo-practice law firm. According to the indictment, Laux defrauded those clients out of more than $2.2 million in funds that Laux then converted to her own use.

According to court documents, between 2010 and 2012, Laux engaged in a scheme to defraud Carleen Vogel Guenther and her family's corporation, Eilcar Corporation, by gaining access to their money. Laux allegedly converted more than $1.6 million of their money to her own use. The indictment alleges that Laux used that money to buy residential property and an insurance business and also used the money to pay her personal bills and bills of her law firm, Laux Law, LLC.

Laux is also accused of defrauding Associated Bank, N.A., and its subsidiary Associated Trust, N.A., which served as trustee of a trust of which Carleen Guenther was a beneficiary. Laux allegedly told the institutions that Carleen Guenther needed funds from the trust to buy a condominium in a retirement home. The bank distributed the $450,000 for that purpose and Laux is accused of converting the $450,000 to her own use. 

In 2013, Laux allegedly defrauded two other estate-planning clients, a husband and wife, by embezzling approximately $584,000 of their investment monies after having promised to use their money to buy annuities.

The indictment further alleges that Laux engaged in money laundering transactions using proceeds of these fraud schemes and that Laux also filed a fraudulent personal income tax return for tax year 2010 on behalf of herself and her husband. According to the indictment, Laux falsely stated that her and her husband's income for 2010 was $104,249, when in fact the amount was in excess of that amount.

If convicted of bank fraud, Laux faces a maximum penalty of up to 30 years' imprisonment, a $1 million fine, and 5 years on supervised release. If convicted of mail fraud or wire fraud, Laux faces a maximum penalty of up to 20 years' imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and 3 years on supervised release.

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