Victims accuse Columbus attorney of stealing millions in insurance money

Victims accuse Columbus attorney of stealing millions in insurance money
Updated: May. 30, 2018 at 4:41 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - "He helped kill my sister!" One woman and several others left Columbus Recorder's Court outraged Wednesday morning.

Most, if not all of them, are former clients who've accused Columbus attorney George William "Bill" Snipes of stealing their money. The Columbus Police Department has charged Snipes with stealing more than $1.2 million.

The group waited inside the courtroom Wednesday morning to learn whether or not he would make bond.

Former client Lisa Cliatt said it's been two years since she was injured in a car accident.

She hired Snipes, 64, off the recommendation of a friend, but not soon after she claimed Snipes forged her signature, pocketing $8,000 in insurance claims meant to cover her medical bills.

"He didn't have the right to forge our name and cash our money," Cliatt said, "then spend it the way he wanted to, while we couldn't spend it the way we wanted to on it."

"He's a liar, he's a thief, he deserves to be in jail."

Cliatt and other former clients brought their complaints before the State Bar of Georgia, leading to an investigation into Snipes' alleged insurance fraud.

By March 12, The Georgia Supreme Court ordered Snipes to "be suspended from the practice of law in Georgia."

By mid-April, Columbus Police's Financial Crimes Unit issued warrants against Snipes including 18 counts of felony theft, affecting a total of nine victims.

Snipes' defense attorney, Atlanta lawyer Jerry Froelich, argued his client's $1.2 million bond - previously set by a magistrate - was ridiculous because Snipes posed no risk due to health problems.

"He is in very, very bad shape. He can't use a cane in the jail because it's a weapon," Froelich said.

Froelich's arguments, which included telling Judge Julius Hunter the $ 1.2 million bond put his client in the same category as gang-leaders and drug dealers, garnered shouts and criticisms from those in and outside court.

When the hearing finished, one man outside Recorders Court asked, "Where did [Snipes] get the money to pay that attorney from?"

"I don't know what it was about," Froelich said, referring to the outcry. "I understand that people are angry."

When asked how Snipes paid for his services, Froelich walked away, ending his interview with News Leader 9, but not before confirming Snipes turned himself into the Muscogee County Jail on Sunday.

Lisa Cliatt said she is still waiting for justice. "I don't care what happens to him. We just want our money. I hope he rots in jail."

Snipes waived his preliminary hearing in order to argue in favor of a lower bond. Ultimately, Judge Hunter agreed to keep Snipes' original $1.2 million bond.

The case will now move to Superior Court, while Columbus Police say Snipes' current charges are only the "tip of the iceberg" in its investigation.

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