COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD)– Sandra Boone was cooking in her Columbia home on February 2, 2020, when flames overtook the newly purchased house.

“I just started screaming and calling my daughter to help me and help me and crying and she was like, ‘ma get out, get out.’ She grabbed my grandkids they ran out the front door. I ran out the back door,” Boone said.

Smoke and fire damage spread through the house forcing Boone, her daughter, and grandchildren to relocate to a hotel.

“I worked so hard after the separation of me and my husband so this was the first time I did something on my own,” she said. “I never dreamed of seeing me by myself in a house and doing everything on my own and to lose it all in 5 months. It was traumatizing.”

Boone’s contractor recommended public adjuster Michael Addison to help her navigate the insurance process.

“I didn’t know no better. I said okay,” she said.

In April, Boone’s home restoration team notified her that Addison had collected $50,000 from her insurance company. Addison had not told her about the settlement so she contacted him to find out why she had not been notified of the major development.

“Every time I would call him he would text me, ‘I will call you back.’ When I called the office the secretary says, ‘he is not in I will take a message,’” she said.

Boone’s insurance agency would not speak with her because Addison had control of her account. Her attorney, Hank Wall, said once someone signs a public adjuster’s contract they hand over financial responsibility.

“These private adjusters take on the role almost as attorneys. They receive other people’s money. It is a high level of trust. They have a fiduciary responsibility and there is very few regulations. It is an antiquated thing really but we have it in South Carolina and it is dangerous.”

Hank Wall, Bruner Powell Wall & Mullins LLC

Wall said it is an easy trap for people who have just undergone a devastating event.

“The problem is that they are in a desperate position. They are not in a great position to make judgments. They tend to want help, they tend to rely on people, and they are vulnerable and can get taken advantage of,” he said.

Boone and Wall took Addison to court to get him discharged. Ultimately, he would not quit so Wall filed an injunction to get him removed from the account. Boone and Wall successfully cut ties with Addison and the insurance company recovered her money, but the original $50,000 is still missing.

News 2 was connected with Boone shortly after The Investigators’ first story on Michael Addison aired. The story profiled a pastor’s widow fighting to reopen the doors of her Goose Creek church. Naomi Smalls hired Addison as a public adjuster after the church sustained roof damage in a storm in 2018. Three years later, Smalls still does not have access to the $70,000 Addison collected from her insurance agency.

“Words can’t even describe it,” Boone said is response to learning about Smalls’ case. “That is a person with no conscience.”

“I was flabbergasted. I was dismayed. I felt so disappointed because we had already had a judge enter an injunction for this kind of behavior. The Department of Insurance had launched an investigation. One of Boone’s concerns is that this might happen to other people and sure enough, it did,” Wall said.

Nearly two years after the house fire, Boone is still living in a hotel waiting for her home to be restored. She shared her story in hopes of sparing others monetary loss and emotional heartbreak.

“Please, people, do not let yourself be the next victim,” she said.

Addison is a chiropractor based out of Orangeburg. He is currently running for U.S. House representing South Carolina’s sixth district. He previously ran for South Carolina Senate District 40.

He chose not to comment on this story.

Both the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and the Department of Insurance are reviewing Boone’s case.