San Manuel Gaming Chip

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 – 10:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 – 08:45 a.m.

News of a local investor fraud scheme, centering around former San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Deputy Christopher Burnell, is finally making the rounds in the local media.

The latest person to latch onto the story is local columnist Cassie MacDuff, who penned an excellent column for Tuesday’s edition of The Press Enterprise.

Sources say Burnell, along with Redlands resident Kyle Larick, bilked some $6.5 million from duped investors. Some of whom are prominent businessmen.

A complaint filed against former Redlands-based investment advisor John Thornes, by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), accused Thornes of illegally transferring some $4.2 million in client funds to mainly Burnell. FINRA ultimately shutdown Thornes, and his business Thornes & Associates, a business he inherited from his deceased father.

To read the FINRA complaint, click here: FINRA Complaint – Thornes & Associates

But even more interesting is where a big chunk of the money ended up passing through.

According to FINRA, Burnell cashed the following amounts at San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino:

Date           Amount        
08/03/2012     $    59,000.00
08/14/2012     $    42,327.00
08/15/2012     $    31,000.00
08/17/2012     $    35,000.00
08/23/2012     $    53,000.00
08/31/2012     $    65,000.00
09/04/2012     $    95,000.00
09/13/2012     $    90,000.00
09/21/2012     $    85,000.00
10/04/2012     $   110,000.00
10/11/2012     $    25,000.00
10/16/2012     $    60,000.00
10/16/2012     $    30,000.00
10/31/2012     $    30,000.00
11/01/2012     $    10,000.00
12/27/2012     $    40,000.00
01/03/2013     $    40,000.00
01/11/2013     $    25,000.00.
Total          $   925,327.00
**Note: Single or Multiple cashier's checks drawn on Union Bank of California, and
Security Bank of California, made payable to San Manuel Casino, were
purchased on of the above dates.

The whole scheme, according to the FINRA complaint, started in 2010. But the practice of San Manuel cashing all these cashiers checks, made out to the casino, didn’t start until August 2012, after federal authorities froze Burnell’s bank accounts.

The FINRA Complaint goes as far as to differentiate the San Manuel Casino amounts, from the rest of the involved funds.

Here’s some interesting questions that need answering:

  • What happened to local prosecutors in this matter? Sources say District Attorney investigators, at one point, were making contact with potential victims.
  • Sources also say San Manuel Casino was handing over large amounts of cash to Burnell. Were any anti-money laundering laws violated?
  • Were any currency tranaction reports required?
  • Did San Manuel charge a fee to convert the checks to cash? If so, how much?
  • Is it normal operating procedure for the casino to engage in such transactions?
  • If San Manuel Casino is either knowingly, or unknowningly, involved in a fraud scheme or money laundering, do they have any civil or criminal liability?
  • Do the duped investors have a claim against San Manuel Casino?

The whole situation smells.