‘Evil’ Ex-Sheriff’s Deputy Gets 14 Years After Gambling Away $2M of Fraud Victim Money

Posted on: September 1, 2022, 10:17h. 

Last updated on: September 1, 2022, 01:03h.

A former San Bernardino County, Calif. sheriff’s deputy has been sentenced to 14 years in federal prison for bilking investors out of $7.5 million.

Christopher Lloyd Burnell
A San Bernardino Sherriff’s Department patrol vehicle. Christopher Lloyd Burnell, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison for bilking investors out of more than $2 million, was a Sheriff’s Deputy who left the department in 2010. (Image: SBSD)

Christopher Lloyd Burnell, 51, was described by US District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald as “one of the most evil people that I have ever dealt with in the law.”

Burnell used his law enforcement past to win victims’ trust and to persuade them to invest in business opportunities that didn’t exist. Then, he gambled away their money, spending more than $2 million at the San Manuel tribe’s Yaamava Casino in Highland.

He also splurged $500K on private jet trips, $70K on Louis Vuitton merchandise, and $175K on luxury cars and an apartment lease for his then-girlfriends, described by prosecutors as “Hooters calendar models.”

Litany of Lies

Burnell told investors falsely, that he had won several million dollars from successful lawsuits against the Sheriff’s Department for injuries sustained in the line of duty and against Kaiser Permanente for medical malpractice.

He also claimed to have invented an air-cooled bulletproof vest, which he said he sold to Oakley Inc. for large sums of money.

From around November 2010 to September 2017, Burnell offered “exclusive investment opportunities” with suspiciously high returns. Some victims were offered 100% on their investments to be delivered in weeks.

When victims became concerned about their investments, he told them his money had been tied up in a trust fund, and federal authorities had seized his remaining assets.

He showed them a fabricated Wells Fargo bank statement that indicated he had over $150 million in his account, which he would use to pay them once the money had been freed up. In reality, the account held less than $6,500.

He then tried to solicit further funds by telling some investors he needed to pay for his wife’s cancer treatment.

‘Emotional Havoc’

“Some victims became depressed and suicidal, others lost their businesses. Some were forced to sell their family homes and move into smaller residences. Some had to tell their children they could no longer pay for their college education; some suffered marital problems and divorced. Some victims had their retirement plans shattered,” prosecutors said.

Simply put, no words can explain the level of emotional and physical havoc [Burnell] wreaked on [his] victims’ lives,” prosecutors added.

Burnell pleaded guilty to 11 counts of wire fraud and two counts of filing a false tax return in May.