David Tronnes, the Orlando man accused of murdering his wife at their Delaney Park home, was stripped of his public defender Monday after prosecutors claimed he hid more than $123,000 from the court.
Circuit Judge John Marshall Kest said he would refer the case to the Orange-Osceola State Attorney’s Office for investigation of possible fraud or misrepresentation and to recover the taxpayer funds spent to provide a public defender for Tronnes.
Tronnes, 50, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of 39-year-old Shanti Cooper-Tronnes, who police say was strangled April 24, 2018, at the couple’s East Copeland Street home. Tronnes, who claimed his wife fell in the bathtub, has pleaded not guilty.
In the days after his wife’s death and his arrest months later in August, Tronnes paid defense attorney Robert Mandell’s firm $250,000 to represent him through Nov. 21, 2018. But by March, Tronnes could no longer pay Mandell, and the attorney left the case due to a conflict of interest.
In May, Kest appointed Tronnes a public defender after Tronnes said the majority of $219,500 he had in bank accounts, retirement savings and other assets was frozen or in a constructive trust formed by the probate court in the case regarding his wife’s estate.
But Assistant State Attorney Ryan James Vescio said Monday that Tronnes was hiding money using a limited liability corporation he created weeks before being arrested Aug. 30, 2018. By Aug. 13, Tronnes’ wife was removed from bank accounts they owned together and Tronnes transferred about $186,750 into the corporation’s accounts, Vescio said.
At the time he claimed to be indigent, Tronnes had $123,527 in those accounts, according to prosecutors.
In Florida, the threshold for indigent status is $24,980.
Vescio said Tronnes also paid Mandell’s firm $30,000 that was not disclosed to a judge by either the defendant or his attorney.
“There have been misrepresentations in this court,” Vescio said. “[Tronnes] was not truthful or accurate in the recording of his information.”
Mandell said Monday “no misrepresentation” was made by his firm in Tronnes’ case. The final payment of $30,000 was not made out to his firm, but to a trust account for future costs associated with the case, Mandell said.
“That money did not go to us,” he said. “In fact, I returned that to the estate.”
Tronnes watched silently as his public defenders told the judge he did not have access to his financial information while in jail. Kest, though, vacated his order appointing the public defenders and said past representations about Tronnes’ finances “appear to be incomplete, inaccurate or possibly untrue.”
Mandell declined to comment on Kest referring the case to the State Attorney’s Office.
A hearing will be held July 3 to determine a new attorney for Tronnes.