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Somerset woman charged with swindling mother-in-law, gambling millions

A western Wisconsin woman is being charged with swindling her 97-year-old mother-in-law, then gambling the money away in casinos.

Deborah Ann Steele, 68, Somerset, faces 10 counts related to taking $345,000 from a vulnerable adult. She then allegedly went to casinos and spent millions — including reinvesting her winnings — reaching a peak of $2.5 million in 2017.

The felony charges were brought up in Ramsey County District Court, each one carrying a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison or a $100,000 fine, or both.

The complaint gives the following account of how Steele defrauded her mother-in-law, who lives in St. Paul.

Steele married the woman's only child in 2013. He was gravely ill, and his mother paid $100,000 to set up a trust fund to support him. She thought that if her son died, the money would go back to her.

Instead, Steele set up that trust fund and made herself the beneficiary.

The mother-in-law made Steele her sole legal representative in July 2015.

That same year, the couple got divorced, with their assets going to Steele. They planned to make him poor enough to go onto public assistance, so that she would not be liable for his expenses.

After the son died in March 2017, Steele withdrew $12,000 from the trust fund, and transferred the rest to her own bank account. Steele withdrew another $254,000 from various accounts of her mother-in-law.

Casino records show that Steele played an average of $180,000 annually — including winnings that she replayed — from 2002 to 2014. But in 2015, when she became the legal representative for the mother-in-law, she played $620,000.

The gambling surged after that — to $1.4 million in 2016, and $2.5 million on 2017.

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