Pinella’s attorney arrested after stealing more than $840,000 from clients, lawmakers say

A personal injury attorney accused of stealing more than $840,000 from clients was arrested Monday by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announced in a news conference.

Christopher Michael Reynolds, 44, of Pinellas Park, opened his private practice in Seminole in 2015 and primarily represented clients injured in vehicular accidents. According to Gualtieri, at least 16 customers settled their cases and then had their money stolen from Reynolds.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, the first known instance of Reynolds stealing money from customers was in December 2018.

When clients first hired Reynolds as their attorney, he consistently responded to any questions or concerns they had, Gualtieri said. But over time, Reynolds’ responses to clients became less frequent and eventually stopped altogether. Some customers would then call their insurance companies about rising medical bills. Their insurance companies would tell them their cases had been settled.

The first report of missing money came last October, Gualtieri said. The woman said her insurance company told her her lawsuit had been settled for $100,000 months earlier. Investigators later learned that Reynolds forged the woman’s name on documents and never used the settlement money to pay her medical bills, according to the sheriff’s office.

Gualtieri said a lien was filed against one of Reynolds’ customers when they couldn’t pay the bills. The best way for customers to get their money back, he said, would be if Reynolds were ordered to pay retaliation at the end of his court case. But the sheriff said it could be years before that happens.

READ :  The 17 best things to do in upstate New York

“He had a pretty decent thing going on,” Gualtieri said of the thefts.

Looking for real-time news notifications?

Subscribe to our free Breaking News newsletter

Receive updates on important topics and events in Tampa Bay and beyond as they take place.

You are all registered!

Want more of our free weekly newsletters delivered to your inbox? Let’s begin.

Discover all your possibilities

According to information from the Sheriff’s Office, Reynolds pocketed up to $148,750 from a customer in March 2019. He took at least $100,000 each from several clients. Gualtieri said clients must have sustained serious injuries to receive six-figure settlements.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office says personal injury attorney Christopher Reynolds stole money from at least 16 clients. According to Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, he has taken over $100,000 each from multiple clients. [¬†Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office¬†]

Reynolds is believed to have used some of the money he stole to buy drugs, Gualtieri said. He also said Reynolds spent more than $30,000 on adult content subscription site OnlyFans, nearly $400,000 on digital payments platform PayPal, and more than $24,000 on ridesharing app Uber.

Gualtieri said the sheriff’s office believes there are likely more customers whose money was stolen by Reynolds. He said Reynolds often met in bars with his clients, who ranged in age from young to old.

Reynolds was suspended by the Florida Supreme Court in December 2022 over the allegations, court documents show. A summary of the suspension order, posted on the Florida Bar’s website, states that Reynolds “has resigned from his law practice without notice.”

READ :  Bay Area civil rights lawyer John Burris confronts police narratives

Gualtieri said the Florida Bar Association had already begun investigating allegations against Reynolds before the sheriff’s office received its first complaint in October 2022.

That same month, Reynolds posted a photo taken in Asheville, North Carolina, on his business Facebook page. Many of the comments on the post were written by users who claimed Reynolds stole money from them.

Reynolds was booked into the Pinellas County jail Monday morning. Prison records show that Reynolds faces 13 counts of grand theft, including one count of grand theft by a person 65 years of age or older. He also faces two counts of money laundering.

As of Monday night, he remained in prison in lieu of $395,000 bail, according to jail records.

When asked if Reynolds was cooperating with lawmakers, Gualtieri said Reynolds “charged himself” when he was arrested.