A local attorney is currently behind bars at the Muscogee County Jail after Columbus police issued warrants for more than $1 million worth of theft by deception charges.
Sgt. Wendy Thornton confirms 64-year-old George William “Bill” Snipes turned himself in Sunday around lunchtime and has so far refused to speak to police on the charges against him.
“We’ve put more than six months, seven months worth of investigating into this, and it’s been a lot of hard work, a lot of hours,” Sgt. Thornton tells News 3’s Mikhaela Singleton. “We still have boxes and boxes of evidence to sort through.”
Sgt. Thornton tells News 3 the investigation started when one of Bill Snipes’ clients filed a complaint alleging he had settled her vehicle accident and injury case without her consent and pocketed the payout.
“When we went there to his office, there were several clients outside banging on the door trying to meet with him,” she says. “At that point we realized there was a lot more into this.”
Sgt. Thornton says so far nine clients have come forward with similar stories alleging they never got their insurance settlements after hiring Snipes to represent them. Evidence suggests he has collected about $1.4 million for himself — and Sgt. Thornton says that’s just from the victims they know so far.
“We’re getting calls almost on a daily basis, more and more people are coming forward saying they were victims too,” she explains. “Right now he was only arrested on charges stemming from the first nine victims … but according to documents there’s about 100 victims it seems like.”
She goes on that those documents seized by CPD suggest Snipes may have scammed his clients out of well over $4 million. Right now, the challenge is lining up all the evidence.
“We’re trying to figure out our victims — who they are, how do we get a hold of our victims, and trying to find out who received checks for their settlements and who did not receive checks for their settlements at this point,” Sgt. Thornton says.
News 3’s Mikhaela Singleton was also the only reporter on the scene Tuesday morning as Snipes’ office on Wynnton Road was emptied by the Muscogee County Marshal’s Office and Rowe Realty.
“We are only involved in the civil aspect of it,” explains Capt. Curtis Lockett. “It’s clear he had not paid the rent in quite some time, so once the judge issued a writ of possession, we came out to assist in the eviction because he had a lot of client documents that couldn’t just be left out. We came to box them up and take them until they can be disposed of.”
Sgt. Thornton confirms warrants had been issued for Snipes back in April, but he had also been avoiding authorities since March when the sheriff’s office attempted to serve him with letters.
She also adds it hits hard, seeing how deeply Snipes’ alleged victims have been affected.
“Their credit’s ruined, people have lost their houses, they’ve filed bankruptcy, collection agencies are calling them and they don’t have the money to pay it because they’ve been out of work, couldn’t pay their house payments, so now they’re homeless. So I mean it’s affected people tremendously over greediness, and that’s basically what this is. Just greed,” Sgt. Thornton says. “I mean they can try to sue Snipes, but as far as we can tell, that money has been spent. We believe he has malpractice insurance, but it’s not nearly enough to cover $4 million, so those people are out all that money.”
She goes on that victims have made numerous complaints to the State Bar of Georgia, prompting the legal body to disbar Snipes.
“We are not currently investigating alongside the State Bar about those complaints, but we have been in contact with them. As far as we know, at this time he has been disbarred,” Sgt. Thornton confirms.
She says as more evidence is uncovered, more charges will be on the way for Snipes. He will appear in Recorder’s Court at 9 a.m. Wednesday. He remains in the Muscogee County Jail on a $1.2 million bond.
If you believe you have information on this case or may be a victim of Bill Snipes’ alleged thefts, please call the Columbus Police Department Financial Crimes Unit at 706-653-3400.