Lawyer Sentenced in Ponzi Scheme

Melinda Haag, US Attorney
US Attorney Melinda Haag

A federal judge sentenced 73-year-old lawyer, Robert G. Tunnell, Jr., to five years in prison for his operation of a $7 million Ponzi scheme.

Tunnell pleaded guilty to mail fraud and wire fraud in a scheme that included risky trading activities despite telling investors funds would be invested in a conservative, safe and cautious manner.  He lost $7 million of the $10 million investors entrusted to him – mostly family members and personal friends, according to U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag.

An estimated $300,000 was alleged diverted from his law firm into his own account.  He has resigned from the California State Bar with charges of the alleged diversion still pending, according to Haag.

Despite his investment losses, he reassured investors he had gains between 2006 and 2011.

He was charged in July 2011 and released on bail.  Later a family member reimbursed his victims for roughly $8.6 million in losses.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer ordered Tunnell to spend nearly five years in prison, an additional three years of supervised release, including six months of home detention with electronic monitoring.

Case:  U.S. v. Tunnell,  No.  CR11-463CRB

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