Firm sues wife of deceased partner

An Orlando-based investment firm is suing the wife of a business partner who committed suicide last month, saying the man – a former Charlotte businessman – bilked the company of at least $21.4 million before his death.

Schrimsher & Co. and Schrimsher Investments Corp. accuse Steve Walsh of secretly misappropriating money in recent years from at least five bank accounts controlled by him and his firm, Broad Street Partners LLC.

Walsh was a Gastonia native whose high-profile businesses in 1980s Charlotte suffered a high-profile collapse. In his heyday, Walsh – rebounding from a 1976 bankruptcy – was Charlotte's largest apartment developer, and he owned small, Charlotte-based MetroBank.

Walsh, 61, had resided since 1999 in Winter Park, said family spokeswoman Anna Crowley.

Walsh, 61, died of a shotgun wound to the chest in the backyard of his Winter Park, Fla., home in late June. It was ruled a suicide.

The lawsuit filed last week in Orlando says the money funded the lavish lifestyle of Walsh's wife, Paula, and helped to buy several family homes – including one in Highlands – and life insurance policies.

The FBI is reviewing the case to see if any crimes were committed.

The firm is suing Paula Walsh and five life insurance companies. Paula Walsh's attorney declined to comment.

At his peak in 1980s Charlotte, Walsh lived in a 7,970-square-foot home across from the Quail Hollow Club golf course. He was a leading Republican fundraiser.

That unraveled when his company filed for bankruptcy protection from creditors in 1989.

The next year, Walsh filed for personal bankruptcy protection. He blamed a sagging real-estate market and a 1986 tax law that changed rules for real-estate investments. Businesses that dealt with him accused him of fraud and misusing money.

An FBI investigation ended in 1989 with no charges filed.