A Santa Barbara man was sentenced Friday to five years in Santa Barbara County Jail after pleading guilty to grand theft by false pretenses and second-degree commercial burglary, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Steven Kunes, 54, has been in custody since he skipped town and local police brought him back from New Jersey earlier this year. Because of law enforcement realignment, outlined in Assembly Bill 109, he will serve his full term in the County Jail instead of state prison.
Kunes could have been sentenced to four years if he had come up with $9,674 in restitution to the victims, but the proof provided by his defense attorney didn’t hold up, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Brian Cota.
Bank account records show what looks like a deposit — which Kunes apparently claimed was money given by a former, now deceased boss — but the bank said the account was emptied so it could report a loss from the forged check and send it to collections.
Cota contended it was an obvious attempt at deception, and pushed for Kunes to be sentenced to five years rather than four under the plea deal because he failed to come up with the restitution.
Kunes was sentenced by Superior Court Judge William Gordon for second-degree commercial burglary, intent to commit larceny and any felony, and felony counts after allegedly trying to pass bad checks at Montecito Bank & Trust. He also admitted special allegations for previously going to prison for forgery and grand theft. He has been implicated in forgeries at both Business First Bank and Montecito Bank & Trust.
Kunes claims to be a screenwriter but appears to have many holes in his self-proclaimed resume. He has submitted plagiarized works to local publications, including Noozhawk, that were taken from Newsweek columnists. After discovering two fraudulent essays, Noozhawk removed his four other columns from the site.