Robert Tunnell, Former San Francisco Attorney, Admits to Ponzi Scheme

Categories: Law & Order
I lost thousands, and all I got was this crummy t-shirt.
A former San Francisco attorney with a tony resume recently pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud in federal court for operating a Ponzi scheme that targeted his own friends and family.

Robert Tunnell, Jr., a septuagenarian alumnus of both Dartmouth and Harvard Law School, worked as an attorney in San Francisco from 1971 to 2001. He resigned from the state bar  in 2001 while facing charges of stealing roughly $300,000 from his law firm for his personal trading account, according to the indictment that came down in June. 

The feds claim that things only went downhill from there. Starting in 2006, Tunnell represented himself to those closest to him as a successful investor and kept to his story until his arrest in June 2011, the indictment states. Working from his residence at 550 Battery St., he took roughly $10 million they had entrusted to him and invested it in risky commodities trading that lost $7 million.

The indictment claims that Tunnell used the remaining millions to repay other investors asking for their returns -- the hallmark of a Ponzi scheme. 

Tunnell pleaded guilty on Nov. 22 to one count of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud out of 21 counts of alleged fraud and money laundering. His attorney, Ed Swanson, says he will accept a 57-month sentence at his hearing on Feb. 22, 2012.

Until then, Tunnell will enjoy his last months of freedom while he remains out on bond.

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