Deputies: Clearwater legal assistant stole $90,000 from elderly man

Kari Smith, Pinellas County Jail booking photo

CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) – A Clearwater legal assistant is accused of stealing $90,806 from an elderly man.

Investigators with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office say Kari Smith, 38, was working as a legal assistant for a Clearwater law firm in 2014 when she first met the victim, 86-year-old David Waddell.  Waddell, who was suffering from mental illness, sought legal assistance from the law firm where Smith worked.

Investigators say Smith befriended Waddell and convinced him to pay her large amounts of money to perform clerical work on his behalf.

Detectives say that Smith entered into a personal “employment agreement” with Waddell, without the knowledge of Waddell’s attorney or the law firm Smith was employed with. During the course of their business relationship, detectives say Smith obtained Waddell’s personal information and gained access to his financial accounts where she wrote checks and transferred large sums of money to herself. On one occasion, Smith used Waddell’s debit card to pay for a new roof on her home.

In February 2015, Waddell passed away.  After his passing, Waddell’s family discovered the inconsistencies in his financial estate. Waddell’s family became suspicious and contacted detectives.

Detectives say that during the course of their investigation, Smith impersonated Waddell, and utilized the deceased’s personal information to try and transfer more money from Waddell’s financial accounts.

On Sept. 8, Kari Smith was arrested and charged with one count of Exploitation of an Elderly Person and two counts of Criminal Use of Personal Information.

Detectives estimate that Smith stole a total of $90,806.24 of David Waddell’s money between July 2014 and January 2015. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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