What was a civil suit between former law partners is now a criminal investigation involving a state attorney candidate. Rusty Shepard alleges that Jim Appleman, former state attorney for more than 20 years, misused their corporations' funds.
Both men are responding to the allegations following yesterday's announcement that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is looking at the claims.
According to Shepard's suit and criminal complaint, Appleman "engaged in a pattern of misconduct."
It went on to say that Appleman conspired with his wife and other partner to misappropriate corporate assets, convert corporate assets, and conceal their actions.
He accuses Appleman of illegal spending, including charging more than $16,000 dollars to the firm's American Express card for personal use.
Shepard also claims that money was inappropriately used for Appleman's campaign for state attorney. Appleman is filing a counterclaim against Shepard, saying that the allegations are 'false' and 'distorted.'
"I welcome a review of the financial records that attached to the complaint so people can make up their minds for themselves about what's going on," Shepard said.
"This is simply a dispute by two partners and Shepard," Appleman said. "It's basically the dissolution of a law firm and a great deal like a divorce...a very messy divorce."
"I look forward to the FDLE's investigation, I'm sure they're going to find that it's politically motivated and as well I asked them to look into the false allegations that have been made.
After an initial review, the Panama City Police Department turned the case over to the FDLE. FDLE confirms they, along with the state attorney's office for the seventh district, received the complaint today. They are reviewing it to see if its worth further investigation.