WEATHER »
Steven Kunes

Paul Wellman (file)

Steven Kunes


Steven Kunes Admits to Forging Checks and Scamming Friend

Will Spend Four or Five Years Behind Bars, Depending on Restitution to Victims


Steven Kunes, the former Montecito resident and Hollywood screenwriter-turned-conman, pleaded guilty last week to passing bad checks and stealing from a onetime friend. As part of a deal struck with prosecutors, Kunes will be sentenced to five years behind bars unless he makes restitution to his victims, in which case he’ll be given a four-year term.

Kunes admitted to creating fake checks on his computer – totaling $6,848 – and depositing them at Montecito Bank & Trust. Though he was able to withdraw the funds, the bank eventually caught wind of the caper and alerted authorities. Kunes, who’s served two prior prison terms for similar crimes, also said he indeed convinced his friend, former Cafe Buenos Aires owner Wally Ronchietto, to give him $2,600 for a made-up movie deal. The official charges levied against Kunes in the two cases were felony commercial burglary and felony grand theft by false pretenses.

He’s slated to be sentenced by Judge Clifford Anderson on February 1. In the meantime, Kunes will remain in custody, explained prosecutor Brian Cota, who also said that because of AB 109 – which changed the guidelines for inmate placement in state prisons and county jails – he will serve his time in Santa Barbara County Jail. He’ll likely be released early due to lack of space at the overcrowded facility, Cota went on. The restitution money, should it materialize, will reportedly come from one of Kunes’s family members.

Kunes tried to avoid prosecution by skipping his court dates in August and fleeing to New Jersey with his girlfriend. After his last no-show, a judge issued a $200,000 bench warrant for his arrest. New Jersey police were alerted to his presence and arrested him in September.

Upon Kunes’s original arrest last March, it was discovered that many of the unsolicited commentaries he submitted to various publications around town — Santa Barbara News-Press, Noozhawk, and The Independent — had been largely plagiarized. The newspapers have since removed his writings from their websites.

To submit a comment on this article, email letters@independent.com or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email tips@independent.com.



event calendar sponsored by:

Vampire Weekend Plays for 805Undocufund This Weekend

Will match up to $10,000 in donations for Libbey Bowl concert.

Immigration Raids Chill Santa Barbara County Community

A quiet has settled over Old Town Goleta after at least five people were grabbed by ICE ...

Seasoned Bandit’ Said to Suffer the ‘Lottery Curse’

Tip led to bank robber James Hayes, who'd hit four Santa Barbara County banks, and six others.

FEMA Reveals New Map for Montecito, Carpinteria Valley

Property owners wishing to rebuild must avoid flooding from 100-year storms.

Alleged Apple Thief Pursued

Man accused of using a stolen credit card to buy thousands of dollars' worth of computer goods.