CLEARWATER, Fla. — A local lawyer is accused of stealing more than $840,000 from clients, now some are sharing their stories.
"He took advantage of me," Ashtyn Smith said. "He kind of just forged my signature."
Her case is now settled after working with Carey Leisure and Neal, but only after she found out she had allegedly been scammed. She and her father turned to Christopher Reynolds for help after a crash left her injured.
"I still thought that because my dad knew him and stuff that he wouldn't do it to me," Smith said.
After her chiropractor reached out to her because they were unable to contact him, she tried reaching out herself, but her calls went straight to voicemail. That was the first sign something was wrong.
"He agreed to represent them, referred them to doctors, sent monetary demand packets to insurance companies, forged clients names on settlement documents and pocketed all the settlement money," Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said during a press conference Monday.
Personal injury lawyer Christopher Reynolds is being held in the Pinellas County Jail on an over $820K bond. He's charged with multiple counts of money laundering and grand theft after 16 clients came forward.
"How could you do this to someone? It's just so inhumane to be able to do it," Dustin and Tara Gilbert said. "We put our trust in him to take care of us."
Dustin's car crash happened on Jan. 13, 2020. Since then, he's been unable to work, still healing from his injuries.
"I sought legal advice from Mr. Reynolds after my car accident. I was having neck and back pain," Gilbert explained.
The couple found Reynolds had settled their case months after not hearing from him.
"It was very surreal too, you know, you don't ever think it's going to happen to you, or that someone could do something like this to you to someone who has already been a victim of an accident," Gilbert said.
He's one of many left with hundreds of thousands of medical bills. Jean Poppa is in the same situation.
"I was sick. Sick my stomach," Poppa said. "I couldn't believe somebody would do that. He's not a good guy at all."
Her car crash was on Feb. 23, 2022. She was hit by a drunk driver in Pasadena and said she's lucky she survived.
"He seemed reputable. He was communicating," Poppa said. "Then one day months later, he picked up that phone, it just didn't seem right. I thought well, it's nearby let me go by his office. As soon as I pulled up the GPS map, I saw those Yelp reviews. That's when I knew something was wrong. When I went to the office, it was vacant."
She went to the sheriff's office to report him and found someone had already reported a similar incident. Deputies caught on while the Florida Bar already had him on their radar. His license was suspended in December 2022.
His arrest now welcomed some relief for more than 11 former clients now being represented by Carey Leisure and Neal, but questions still remain.
"I don't think I can say the things on camera that I would like to say to him, because it makes me very angry," Tara Gilbert said. "Definitely an explanation. I would like an explanation."
The sheriff's office is asking anybody who was victimized by Reynolds and has not reported it to please come forward. People can file a report against Reynolds by contacting the sheriff's office's economic crime section at 727-582-6200.