Former Montecito resident Steven Kunes was arrested last Thursday in New Jersey. The one-time Hollywood screenwriter-turned-conman is wanted by Santa Babara authorities for felony grand theft and forgery, and is being held on the East Coast until he’s extradited back to California.
Kunes posted $40,000 bail a few months ago through an area bondsman, and was ordered to appear in court on August 19. When he didn’t attend, Judge Clifford Anderson gave him another week. After his second no-show on August 26, the judge issued a $200,000 bench warrant for his arrest. Kunes is charged with trying to pass $12,000 in bad checks and scamming a number of friends, asking them for money to secure a movie deal that never existed. He’s been in and out of prison since 1999 with a number of felony convictions, including false use of financial information.
According to sources, Kunes never made it to court because he was picked up by his girlfriend in early August and flown to Pennsylvania, his home state. The two reportedly split their time between the girlfriend’s houses in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, and Manahawkin, New Jersey. While on the lam, Kunes tried unsuccessfully a number of times to edit his Wikipedia page by eliminating references to his past and current legal troubles. He also sent a Facebook message to a reporter with the Bucks County Courier Times, claiming his case has “been settled and was overblown, particularly in the media, as a result of my ex-wife and a former girlfriend, who is a journalist who’s trying to sell a book about my life.”
Deputy District Attorney Brian Cota said he’s unsure of the details surrounding Kunes’s arrest, whether he was picked up on a separate charge or if New Jersey police recognized him as a fugitive. It’s also not clear in what city Kunes was apprehended, and if he has waived his extradition rights or if the Santa Barbara DA’s Office will have to begin the process to bring him back. The bondsman who knows those details, Brian Gooch of Biker Bail Bonds, declined to comment for this story.
Cota explained Kunes originally faced a maximum of nine years in state prison if convicted of the theft and forgery charges, but now could spend even more time behind bars for skipping bail. Kunes is scheduled to appear in court on October 21.