Former San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy pleads guilty to multimillion-dollar fraud scheme

A former San Bernardino County Sheriff's deputy pleaded guilty to defrauding multiple people out of more than $5 million, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Christopher Lloyd Burnell, 51, of Highland, pleaded guilty Monday to 11 counts of wire fraud and two counts of filing a false tax return. According to officials, Burnell used false claims to create the illusion that he was a wealthy business man, and in November 2010, began deceiving people into investing thousands of dollars with him. 

According to the Justice Department, Burnell claimed that he'd made tens of millions of dollars from lawsuits he'd won against the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department and Kaiser Permanente; from selling patents; and through other investments. 


All told, Burnell is accused of scamming his victims out of more than $5.6 million, which according to court documents he used on private jet trips, Louis Vuitton merchandise, luxury cars and more. He's also accused of losing more than $2 million gambling at the San Manuel Casino in Highland.

In some cases, according to the DOJ, Burnell scammed victims out of more money, even after they'd raised concerns about their investments, saying that he needed money to pay for his then-wife's cancer treatments or a child custody dispute with his father-in-law. According to documents, when other victims expressed concerns about their funds, Burnell would show them a fake bank statement, showing an account with more than $150 million in it, when in fact he'd only had less than $6,500 in that account. 

Burnell is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 15, and could face a maximum sentence of up to 226 years in federal prison for all of the charges.