A Santa Barbara man charged with check forgery and who apparently plagiarized several commentary stories for local publications, including Noozhawk, appeared in Santa Barbara County Superior Court on Wednesday.
Steven Kunes, 54, had his preliminary hearing setting continued to May 25. He remains in custody at the Santa Barbara County Jail and appeared in court wearing a jail uniform and ankle shackles, and his wrists were handcuffed to a chain around his waist — as is custom for inmates appearing in court.
In December, Kunes was arrested for second-degree commercial burglary, intent to commit larceny and any felony, and counts of forgery for attempting to pass $12,000 in bad checks at Montecito Bank & Trust. He was arrested March 17 for a parole violation, Sheriff’s Department spokesman Drew Sugars said.
Kunes has a criminal history of felonies, including serving time in prison for check forgery and related crimes. In Santa Barbara County, Kunes has been implicated in forgeries at both Business First Bank — to which he had to pay restitution after his conviction — and Montecito Bank & Trust.
Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen launched an investigation into Kunes’ work after being tipped by a reader that some submitted essays were not original. After finding significant examples of apparent plagiarism in two of the essays, all six were removed from the site.
When looking into Kunes, much, if not all, of his self-proclaimed résumé seems to be full of holes. His name doesn’t appear in periodicals he claims to have written for, on Web sites of awards he claims to have won, or in the credits for screenplays he has claimed to have written.
Two Kunes essays published on Noozhawk — “My Children the Experts” and “Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover” — were copied, in places verbatim, from Newsweek commentaries by best-selling author and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Anna Quindlen.
Kunes has submitted unsolicited commentaries to the Santa Barbara Independent and the Santa Barbara News-Press that appear to be plagiarized from other Newsweek columnists, and the Daily Sound reportedly published a faked Kunes interview with singer Jimmy Buffett.
The Independent has removed Kunes stories from its Web site, but the News-Press had not as of Wednesday morning.
Two decades ago, Kunes advertised that he was selling a special interview with Catcher in the Rye author J.D. Salinger to People magazine. The notoriously media-shy Salinger said he had never given Kunes an interview and subsequently sued him. The case was settled in 1982, and Kunes was barred from “exhibiting, transmitting or distributing documents, writing or statements attributed to Mr. Salinger,” according to an archived New York Times story.