Pinellas lawyer arrested after stealing more than $840,000 from clients, deputies say
A personal injury lawyer 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 vehicle crashes. According to Gualtieri, at least 16 clients had their cases settled, then had their money stolen by Reynolds.
According to information provided by the sheriff’s office, the first known instance of Reynolds stealing money from clients was in December 2018.
When clients first retained Reynolds as their lawyer, he consistently responded to any questions or concerns they had, Gualtieri said. But over time, Reynolds’ responses to clients became infrequent and eventually stopped entirely. Some clients would then call their insurance companies due to rising medical bills. Their insurance companies would tell them their cases had been settled.
The sheriff’s office first learned of the allegations last October, when one of Reynolds’ clients reported that her insurance company told her that her lawsuit had been settled months earlier for $100,000, Gualtieri said. But the woman said she hadn’t received the money.
Investigators learned that Reynolds had forged the woman’s name on legal documents and collected the settlement money, according to the sheriff’s office, but he didn’t use it to pay her medical bills.
Gualtieri said a lien was filed against another one of Reynolds’ clients when they couldn’t pay their medical bills. The best way for the clients to get their money back, he said, would be for Reynolds to be ordered to pay retribution at the end of his court case. But the sheriff said it could take years for that to happen.
“He had a pretty decent thing going,” Gualtieri said of the thefts.
Reynolds pocketed as much as $148,750 from one client in March 2019, according to information provided by the sheriff’s office. He took at least $100,000 each from multiple clients. Gualtieri said the clients must have had serious injuries in order to get six-figure settlements.
It’s believed Reynolds used some of the money he stole to buy drugs, Gualtieri said. He also said Reynolds spent more than $30,000 on the adult content subscription website OnlyFans, almost $400,000 on the digital payment platform PayPal and more than $24,000 on the ride-sharing app Uber.
Gualtieri said the sheriff’s office believes there likely are more clients whose money was stolen by Reynolds. He said Reynolds often had meetings with his clients, who ranged in age from younger to older individuals, at bars.
Reynolds was suspended by the Florida Supreme Court in December 2022 as a result of the allegations, court records show. A summary of the suspension order posted on the Florida Bar’s website states Reynolds “abandoned his law practice without notice.”
Gualtieri said the Florida Bar already had begun investigating claims made against Reynolds before the sheriff’s office received its first complaint in October 2022.
That same month, Reynolds posted a picture taken in Asheville, North Carolina, on his business Facebook page. Many of the comments on the post were written by users claiming that Reynolds stole money from them.
Reynolds was booked into Pinellas County Jail Monday morning. Jail records show Reynolds faces 13 counts of grand theft, including one count of grand theft from a person 65 years of age or older. He also faces two counts of money laundering.
He remained in jail Monday evening in lieu of $395,000 bail, according to jail records.
Asked if Reynolds was cooperating with deputies, Gualtieri said Reynolds “lawyered up” upon his arrest.