Disgraced Tampa attorney sentenced to 15 years in prison

A former Tampa attorney convicted of stealing money from vulnerable clients was sentenced Monday to 15 years in prison, but he could be paying for his crimes for the rest of his life.

David Whigham, 51, pleaded guilty in November to stealing more than $2 million from children, elderly, and disabled clients.

"This is not a routine case. It's an extraordinary case with an extraordinary class of victims," Judge Christopher Nash told Whigham. "Directly or indirectly, [the victims are] children, elderly people, disabled people, child burn victims, seriously ill children."

According to prosecutors, Whigham used the stolen money to save his failing business, go on lavish vacations, buy a boat, eat fancy dinners, and pay bills.

"He took complete advantage of my innocence," said Margaret Petti, who was in court for the sentencing. "He actually took my total inheritance check and just signed it over to himself and that was $96,000."

Petti said Whigham's crime nearly left her homeless.

"When I looked at that judge in the eye, I knew he felt my pain and I know he felt the pain of every other victim in that room," she said, adding she hopes others learn a valuable lesson from her experience. 
"Protect yourself. Protect yourself because there is a lot of people out there just waiting to take advantage of you."

In addition to spending more than a decade in prison, Whigham will also have to pay back his victims.

"Fifteen years in prison in an extraordinary sentence, but I think it fits the bill for this particular case," said James Souza, Petti's attorney. "It wasn't just the theft, it wasn't just the amount, it was who he stole from."

Whigham, who was disbarred, told the judge Friday he planned to devote his life to restitution.