Wednesday, June 5, 2013 – 11:00 a.m.

Last week’s news of disciplinary charges filed against a Redlands-based investment advisor over the misappropriation of some $4.2 million of client funds seems to have some interesting twists and turns.

On May 20, 2013, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) filed a disciplinary complaint against John Thornes and his firm Thornes and Associates, a firm with some $120 million under management. The complaint alleges Thornes handed over client funds to Highland resident Christopher Burnell, a former San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Deputy, and Redlands resident Kyle Larick.

The two men are described as close friends of Thornes.

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

The actions of Burnell, in particular, has generated several lawsuits in San Bernardino Superior Court. Lawsuits that lead one to believe that there is even more dough that has been pilfered away.

The first shoe dropped October 24, 2012 by way of a lawsuit (Case CIVDS1211102 – TETLEY -V- BURNELL) filed by Grand Terrace-based Attorney Glenn Tetley against Burnell, his wife Lisa, and Burnell’s company, CH&E Investments.

On the same day a second lawsuit (Case CIVDS1211085 – EMPEY -V- LARICK) is was filed against Burnell and Larick by Plaintiff Morgan Empey. Court records indicate Larick has since settled and is being dropped from the complaint.

On February 28, 2013, a third lawsuit (Case CIVDS1302158 – BOYD -V- BURNELL) is filed against Burnell, and defendant’s Christoper Boyd, Sidney Martin and Louise Martin, by Plaintiff Edward Boyd. On February 28, 2013 Boyd was dropped from the complaint. On May 20, 2013, a default was entered against Burnell.

On March 21, 2013, a lawsuit is filed by local real estate developer Scott Beard. (Case CIVDS1302875 – GERALD W. BEARD REALTY, ET AL -V- BURNELL, ET AL), against Burnell, Lisa Burnell, CH&E Investments, John Thornes and Thornes and Associates. On a side note, Beard is also the lead proponent of the campaign to recall the entire San Bernardino City Council, Mayor and City Attorney.

On April 29, 2013, Thornes files suit (Case CIVDS1304358 – THORNES -V- BURNELL) against Burnell.

Then lastly, on April 29, 2013, Doreen Thornes files a lawsuit (Case CIVDS1304359 – THORNES -V- BURNELL) against Burnell and Larick, The same day Thornes, himself, files a lawsuit (Case CIVDS1304358 – THORNES -V- BURNELL) against Burnell.

Sources say Burnell, for some time now, has been living a lavish lifestyle, with travel and gambling at the forefront. A series of what now would appear to be duped investors tell tales of a series of excuses given by Burnell as to why he couldn’t return principal investment in addition to promised lofty returns.

The principle reason given, by Burnell, being his assets were frozen by state and federal tax authorities. The tax authority actions give rise to allegations by FINRA of money laundering to avoid the levies.

Burnell has been witnessed routinely patronizing San Manuel, and other local casinos, sometimes dropping tens of thousands of dollars a visit. San Manuel is of interest because FINRA alleges Burnell cashed checks for Burnell totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The FINRA allegations of BMW purchases and private jet charters, among other lavish outlays, paid for with funds belonging to clients of Thornes, makes for interesting reading.

Sources say inquiries by local Distrct Attorney investigators as well as federal authorities is ongoing.