Tampa attorney David Whigham made a career setting up special needs trusts for his clients, acting as a guardian of such trusts in at least dozens — and possibly hundreds — of cases.
However, Whigham’s law license was suspended in March 2016 after the Florida Bar accused him of stealing at least $899,431 from the Joseph E. Steurlein Revocable Living Trust.
According to court documents, the Bar accused Whigham, 48, of “causing great public harm by misappropriating client funds to be held in trust as will be shown by facts supported by the affidavits.”
The affidavits and accompanying evidence show Whigham did indeed receive nearly $900,000 into his law practice bank account but did not disperse the funds to various charities per the death of the settlor triggering the disbursement.
Whigham did disperse $200,000 to Shriner’s Hospital in Tampa but failed to disperse the remaining money to the Scottish Rite Schizophrenic Research Foundation of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction in Lexington, Massachusetts.
Bank records show Whigham’s account was, in fact, overdrawn shortly after the Shriner’s dispersant. The Florida Bar alleges Whigham tried to pull the wool over their eyes with a series of excuses that were at first plausible, but increasingly outrageous.
Unfortunately, Whigham was also the guardian of a special needs trust set up in 2011 to benefit Emily Pike, 23, of Clermont. Pike has cerebral palsy and is mentally disabled.
According to Pike’s family, Whigham did a lousy job and seems to have lost $458,246 from her trust. The Pikes accuse Whigham of negligence, though they do not specifically accuse him of stealing the missing funds.
“We got a letter from David Whigham saying he was no longer going to be the guardian of Emily’s trust,” said Karen Pike, Emily’s mother. “We haven’t heard much else. We know he is being looked into by various people but that’s all we know right now.”
Where are all the hundreds of thousands of dollars under Whigham’s watch?
It seems only Whigham himself knows, and he isn’t talking.
Whigham could not be reached for comment, as both listed phone numbers have been disconnected.