Lawyer accused of grand theft
By THOMAS LAKE
Published January 13, 2007
John Kohler drove trucks and delivered bread and saved his money, and four years ago he sank $50,000 into a bottled-water business venture.
He lost most of it. He says Canadian hucksters took his cash and failed to deliver.
Kohler wanted justice. About four years ago, he hired David Olson, a lawyer in New Port Richey, to file suit. He paid a $2,000 retainer and handed over the documents.
But Olson did nothing to earn his pay, authorities said, and Kohler came away with little legal recourse.
"It's like getting shot," said Kohler, 56, of Wesley Chapel, "with a double-barreled shotgun."
Olson left many clients feeling wounded.
He was arrested on Thursday and charged with 17 counts of grand theft. He is accused of cheating clients out of nearly $175,000 between 2002 and 2005, according to a Times analysis of court records.
A sampling of the allegations:
- Larry and Jeanne Gronau gave Olson $25,000 to hold in a trust as a down payment for property. He siphoned off two-thirds of it for himself, and the Gronaus had to pay the rest to finish the deal.
- A company called Metro Development paid Olson $10,000 to represent them in a real estate transaction. The transaction fell through, and Olson never returned the money.
- Barbara Mullinix hired Olson to handle the probate on her mother's estate. He received more than $85,000 for the sale of property and goods, passing none of it to her.
Olson, 58, had been a member of the Florida Bar nearly 30 years without disciplinary action before the complaints started coming in. He was disbarred in August.
If he got rich by bilking his clients, there were few outward signs at his home at 9811 Delray Drive in New Port Richey. He lived in a modest ranch house, taupe with green shutters, with rust on the basketball hoop and flat tires on an old Ford Mustang.
Next-door neighbor Gladys King said Olson is married with two children and has lived in that house for at least 17 years.
"He's been a wonderful neighbor," she said. "It's just hard to believe."
Olson was held Friday at the Land O'Lakes jail in lieu of $210,000 bail. He declined a Times interview request.
Meanwhile, Kohler wondered if he'd ever get his money back.
"The guy just kept lying to me," he said. "I'd be glad to sit in the courtroom and tell everybody what kind of a scumbag David Olson is."
Thomas Lake can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6245.
[Last modified January 12, 2007, 23:01:00]
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