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CFO Sink Announces Arrest of Lawyer for Stealing Nearly $500,000 in Insurance Settlements

8/27/2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 27, 2009          
CONTACT:  Kyra Jennings or Jennifer Hirst, (850) 413-2842 
     
CFO SINK ANNOUNCES ARREST OF LAWYER FOR STEALING NEARLY $500,000 IN INSURANCE SETTLEMENTS
 
TALLAHASSEE—Florida CFO Alex Sink today announced the arrest of a West Palm Beach lawyer who allegedly pocketed nearly $500,000 of his clients’ insurance claims settlements. The arrest is the result of an investigation by the CFO Sink’s Division of Insurance Fraud with assistance from the Florida Bar Association.
 
Alexander Clark Cone, 54, has been charged with first-degree grand theft and continuing criminal enterprise. According to the Florida Bar, Cone has also been disbarred for misappropriation of funds and unethical practices, and will not be allowed to practice law in the State of Florida. Cone was arrested and booked into the Palm Beach County Jail on August 25, 2009; if convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison, investigative costs and restitution payments to the victims.
 
“The fact that a lawyer would steal from the very people he was hired to represent is reprehensible,” said CFO Sink. “I commend our investigators at the Division of Insurance Fraud and the Florida Bar for their work to bring this criminal to justice.”
 
Investigators with the Division of Insurance Fraud found that Cone was depositing settlement money he received on behalf of his clients into his trust account and then transferring the money into his personal account. Investigators were tipped off to the illegal activity after the Florida Bar subpoenaed Cone’s bank records and conducted an audit on Cone’s accounts.
 
Each of Cone’s victims was interviewed and sworn affidavits were obtained. Their allegations include:
  • Mr. and Mrs. Anthony DePrizio were involved in an auto accident in 2006 and were hospitalized for several weeks. Mrs. DePrizio continues undergoing therapy. Cone was hired to represent the DePrizios, and in 2007, he settled the case and sent the couple a closing letter to sign along with a check for $500,000. Cone requested that the couple endorse the check and send it back to him. Although the DePrizios had agreed in their contract to a 33 percent contingency fee, they only received $20,000 from the settlement.
  • Mr. Victor Jackson filed a claim and sought representation from Cone regarding the death of his wife in an airplane crash. According to Cone’s former paralegal, Cone forged Jackson’s signature on legal documents, including Jackson’s affidavit. Mr. Jackson later discovered that Cone settled the claim in 2008 for $100,000, without Mr. Jackson’s knowledge. Jackson has not received any money from the settlement.
  • Ms. Bonnie Schnorr had an auto accident 15 years ago and hired Cone to represent her. She was advised that Cone settled the case and received $71,000, but she only received $31,000. She has since learned from her current attorney that Cone received an additional check from the insurance company for $38,000.
The Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF) made over 800 insurance fraud-related arrests in the last fiscal year, and investigates various forms of insurance fraud, including health, life, auto, property and workers’ compensation insurance.  Depending on the estimated loss amount, the Department will pay up to $25,000 for information directly leading to an arrest and conviction.  Anyone with information about this or any other suspected insurance fraud is asked to call CFO Sink’s Fraud Fighters Hotline at 1-800-378-0445 or visit to www.MyFloridaCFO.com/fraud.
 
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