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Crime stranger than her fiction

Patricia Cornwell

Associated Press

Patricia Cornwell

IT’S A STORY as old as celebrity itself: The naive young movie star or sports hero foolishly trusts a Svengali-like business manager to oversee his or her accounts; what follows is usually a rapid enriching of the business manager and a rude wake-up call to the unsophisticated star. But the 56-year-old Boston-based mystery writer Patricia Cornwell isn’t the teenaged Elvis Presley, and money manager Evan Snapper of the venerable New York firm of Anchin, Block & Anchin isn’t the cigar-chomping Colonel Tom Parker.

Indeed, the firm insisted that any profligacy and irresponsibility was on the part of Cornwell herself, who had penchant for private jets and personal helicopters, and once rented a $40,000-per-month New York apartment. But a federal jury, perhaps moved by Cornwell’s claim that she was shocked to discover that Snapper had paid $5,000 out of her account for a bat mitzvah gift for his daughter, among other unapproved expenditures, found that the firm had mismanaged Cornwell’s finances and awarded her $50.9 million in damages. She said she made $89 million during the four years that the firm managed her accounts but emerged from a writerly cocoon to discover she was down to her last $13 million.

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At least Cornwell grabbed control of her finances in time to seek legal recourse and still be a millionaire. If only such a successful ending could be had for the legions of actors and athletes who become rich at a young age only to end their careers penniless; they should look at Cornwell’s case as a reason to pay closer attention to their own finances.

Cornwell told the Globe after the verdict, “I tend to be outraged by injustices.” She was referring to her own case, over which Anchin, Block & Anchin is now weighing an appeal. But there are other injustices in the world of celebrity management, and they deserve attention as well.

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