White collar scam artist and former Montecito resident Steven Kunes, 59, was arrested Friday in Bucks County Pennsylvania on a California probation violation arrest warrant from six months ago, according to a Sheriff’s Office press release.
A moderately successful Hollywood screenwriter in the ’80s and ’90s, Kunes’s conman career now spans more than 30 years. He was sued in 1982 by J.D. Salinger for trying to pass a fake interview with the writer to People magazine. Since 1999, Kunes has served time in jail and prison for false use of financial information, grand theft, and forgery, as previously reported in The Santa Barbara Independent. In 2012, a Santa Barbara County judge sentenced him to five years in jail for scamming a former friend and passing forged checks. That same year, he cut off his electronic monitoring ankle bracelet — under California’s prison realignment legislation, Kunes had opted for at-home detention — and mailed it via FedEx to the Sheriff’s Office.
When he was eventually arrested some four months later — after a woman saw him dining at The Palms restaurant in Carpinteria and contacted the Sheriff’s Office — he was sentenced to two-and-a-half years at Wasco State Prison. Upon his release in June 2015, Kunes failed to report to his probation officer, prompting the county to issue a warrant for his arrest. He remained under the radar until earlier this month, when the Bucks County Courier Times reported Kunes, a Bucks County native, was the executive producer of “Over My Dead Body,” a purported Netflix series which Kunes claimed starred Bill Maher. Shortly after the paper published an correction article around January 5 saying they had been conned, Kunes was arrested by Bucks County Sheriff’s deputies while picking up a package from a P.O. Box in his hometown.
“This isn’t the first time social media has played a role in Kunes’s apprehension,” said the Sheriff’s Office press release, attributing his previous arrest to a mugshot photo shared on the Sheriff’s Office Facebook page. Kunes’s own Facebook posts, including a selfie of the scam artist clad in a Hawaiian shirt and drinking a Starbucks Frappuccino (pictured), reportedly helped lead local authorities and Pennsylvania Sheriff’s deputies to Kunes. Awaiting extradition to Santa Barbara County, he is being held at the Bucks County Jail without bail.