Who hasn’t wondered what indulging in a luxury Walt Disney World Vacation would be like? Imagine infinite Disney Park passes and Lightning Lanes followed by an evening at a Presidential suite inside a top-tier Disney hotel. Few experiences are more exclusive than being Guests at a premium Disney World Resort.
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A Financial Advisor
For one family, the dream became a reality. Chris Burns, former youth pastor turned financial advisor and now FBI “most wanted” fugitive made it happen. According to prosecutors, he carried out a multi-year Ponzi scheme that victimized thousands across three states. Using the guise of a peer-to-peer lending program, he allegedly stole money from his clients to fund a $1 million lake house, multiple vehicles, and several trips to the Walt Disney World Resort.
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The illegally earned money also provided funding for his local radio show, where he gave financial advice to listeners.
A Disney Dad
His family described Burns as being obsessed with Disney. He spent money profusely on Disney vacations, including bi-annual trips to the Walt Disney World Resort, multiple Disney Cruises, and a Disney Vacation Club membership. According to his wife, Burns once paid for their neighbors to come to Walt Disney World with them. And he even paid for Disney World VIP tours, spending as much as $8,000 daily on a Florida theme Park vacation.
While Burns was able to keep up the scheme for years, he came under suspicion by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 2020. On September 24, 2020, the day before Burns was to hand over documents to the SEC, he disappeared like a villain in Fantasmic. He told his wife he was driving to South Carolina to see his parents. But when she contacted them, his parents said they had not seen him and there were no plans for him coming to visit. A warrant for his arrest was issued on October 23, 2020.
He left behind his car in a parking garage, three cashier’s checks totaling nearly $80,000, angry investors, and a troubled family who were in the dark the entire time.
“I have [had] to rethink my entire life,” said Philip Burns, Chris Burns’ son, who was only 15 years old when his dad vanished. “He was my role model. It hurts so much that he left that day. I believe he is still out there somewhere, but [he] is not a part of our family and our lives anymore.”
Christopher W. Burns is wanted by the #FBI for his involvement in a mail fraud scheme in Georgia in which he allegedly defrauded a number of victims out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. He has not been seen since leaving his home on Sept 24, 2020: https://t.co/5GEvVM5ARk pic.twitter.com/GCXMUQLsZp
— FBI Most Wanted (@FBIMostWanted) December 9, 2020
In the SEC’s complaint, Burns is accused of telling his clients that they would be repaid their principal investment amounts and interest as high as 20%. He even gave clients a “personal guarantee for each promissory note, in which he promised to repay 100% of any principal loss,” per the complaint.
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Before the scheme fell apart, Burns allegedly sold over 70 promissory notes to multiple investors in Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida.
As of today, May 4, 2023, “Disney Dad” Christopher W. Burns is considered a fugitive and listed among the FBI’s Most Wanted.
According to the FBI website:
Christopher W. Burns is wanted for his alleged involvement in a mail fraud scheme in Georgia. It is alleged that Burns defrauded a number of victims out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. As part of his scheme, Burns allegedly falsely told victims that he was investing their money in a “peer to peer” lending program in which loans were backed by collateral. In reality, the collateral promised by Burns either did not exist at all or was worth substantially less than Burns represented. He has not been seen since he left his home on September 24, 2020, one day before he was supposed to turn over documents related to his businesses to the Securities and Exchange Commission. A federal arrest warrant was issued for Burns on October 23, 2020, in the United States District Court, Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta, Georgia, after he was charged with mail fraud.