Lawsuits contend man burned in car fire embezzled millions

Robert Hetsler suffered burns to 65% of his body in San Marco car fire

By Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A man severely burned in a November car fire in Jacksonville's San Marco neighborhood is facing several lawsuits for allegedly using millions of dollars for personal use that he was supposed to be protecting for clients in escrow accounts. 

When clients of 43-year-old Robert Hetsler's company, Hetsler Mediation and Valuation, heard about the fire, they tried calling the company to find out where their money was and hired an attorney when they couldn't get any answers. 

Hetsler suffered burns to 65 percent of his body when his Ford Mustang caught fire in the early morning hours of Nov. 16 near the train crossing on Atlantic Boulevard in San Marco. He remains at UF Health's burn unit in Gainesville.

Hetsler's LinkedIn account lists his company as Hetsler Mediation and Valuation that focuses on divorce and 1031 exchanges, which involve capital gains taxes.

According to documents from four lawsuits against Hetsler, of $4-6 million Hetsler was supposed to be protecting in escrow accounts, only $800,000 of it was accounted for, and he wrongfully used those funds for personal matters.

The lawsuits “demand accounts be frozen, to protect from further dissipation,” and seek to recover damage “from civil theft.”

On Friday, News4Jax went to the listed address for Hetsler Mediation and Valuation in the Deerwood Park Office Complex and the company was no longer listed on the directory. 

Court documents show Hetsler's wife recently filed for divorce. News4Jax went to the listed address for the couple in the Glen Kernan neighborhood, but couldn't get to the house because it's in a gated community. 

Hetsler’s wife has also filed a petition for separation of finances. She is also an official with Hetlser Mediation and Valuation, and is trying to avoid being held responsible for any “debt unilaterally incurred by him and any assets he has dissipated.”

In the filing, the wife says Hetsler regularly demonstrates “drastic mood swings and erratic behavior,” and says his instability is due to “addiction issues.”

A source with knowledge of the lawsuits told News4Jax that Hetsler may have recently come out of an induced coma -- about three months after the car fire that nearly killed him.

The state Fire Marshal's Office and the IRS could not be reached when News4Jax tried to inquire whether any state agencies are investigating Hetsler.  

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