FBI Seeks Help in Finding Fugitive “Disney Dad” on Most Wanted List

family at disney world cinderella castle dark clouds and fbi most wanted poster
Credit: Becky Burkett/FBI/Burns Family/Canva

A fugitive nicknamed “Disney Dad” because of his frequent visits to Walt Disney World–paid for by funds from a massive Ponzi scheme, years in the making–is still on the run, and the FBI is seeking the public’s help in locating him.

READ MORE: Former Pastor’s Frequent Trips to Disney World Make Him One of FBI’s Most Wanted Fugitives

Former Pastor Put on FBI Most Wanted List for Alleged $10 Million Fraud

Christopher Burns/Credit: Burns family

Christopher Burns, a former youth pastor turned financial adviser, is wanted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering. According to prosecutors, Burns ran a massive Ponzi scheme for years–one that made victims of residents across three different states. As a financial adviser, Burns allegedly carried out the scheme under the guise of a “peer-to-peer” lending program with promissory notes bearing high interest. The money he received from his clients was then used to fund Burns’s lavish lifestyle, complete with a $1 million lake house, multiple vehicles, a boat, and more. He also allegedly paid for airtime for his local radio show with the funds.

Burns’s Complex Ponzi Scheme Nets the Family Extravagant Disney Trips

Burns even used his ill-gotten gains to take his wife and three young children on multiple Walt Disney World Resort vacations in Central Florida, though his wife was none the wiser about the funding for the trips. Since Burns’s disappearance, his now-ex-wife Meredith has recounted many of her memories about Burns before he left, including his erratic behaviors, his abusive demeanor, and his alleged drug abuse, in an online blog.

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family with donald duck at disney world

Credit: Burns Family/BelievingMyself

An Investigation by the SEC Accelerates Burns’s Downward Spiral

Burns was initially being investigated by the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) and was to turn over documents related to his business on September 25, 2020. He left his home in Berkeley Lake, Georgia, on September 24, after telling his wife that he was driving to his parents’ home to spend time with them before he handed over the documents the next day, presumably because he expected to face consequences related to the allegations against him.

His wife Meredith insisted he take her vehicle–a Subaru–rather than his GMC Yukon, as she felt it was the safer of the two vehicles for a road trip that would take several hours. But the next day, Burns didn’t return home, and his family has not seen him since the day he left to supposedly visit his parents. The couple’s Subaru was found abandoned, however, in Dunwoody, Georgia, just 14 miles from the Burns’s home in Berkeley Lake.

“Disney Dad” Becomes a Fugitive on the Run

A federal arrest warrant was issued for Christopher Burns on October 23, 2020, for a charge related to mail fraud, but Burns has had no contact with anyone in his family, and investigators have virtually no clues about where he is. As of the time of this publication, Burns is presumed to be on the run, though it’s not known where he is, where he’s been, or whether he’s had communication with anyone unknown to the family. It’s also not known whether Burns has anyone assisting him in fleeing.

During an interview in March 2021, FBI Special Agent Stephen Ryskoski with the FBI Atlanta office’s Complex Financial Crimes Squad said he believes Burns is alive and in the United States. “We are actively looking for him at this moment,” Ryskoski said.

FBI Most Wanted list: Former youth pastor accused of financial fraud - Deseret News

Walt Pavlo, president of 500 Pearl Street, a consulting firm for attorneys and their clients in federal criminal cases, says it’s only a matter of time before Burns is found. But he says Burns won’t be found by a search team “combing the woods.” Rather, Pavlo says, the FBI is waiting for Burns to “make a mistake.” According to Pavlo:

The FBI is looking for financial transactions that might give away Burns’ location and, in the meantime, are getting his name and information up on all the law enforcement databases — in the U.S. and internationally. He said the FBI is also monitoring the people closest to him and putting pressure on them to contact the authorities should they hear from Burns.

On April 11, 2023, though Burns had still not been found, a federal grand jury charged him with ten counts of wire fraud, two counts of mail fraud, and four counts of money laundering. The charges are in addition to the mail fraud charge against Burns from October 2020.

Federal Agents Seek the Public’s Help in Finding Burns

As of the time of this post, nearly three years have passed since Christopher Burns was last seen. No foul play is suspected in his disappearance, and federal agents involved with the case say Burns is a fugitive on the run. He is listed on the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list of fugitives, and the FBI is seeking the public’s help in locating Burns and bringing him to justice.

mom and dad with three young children on sandy beach

Credit: Burns Family

Per the U. S. Department of Justice:

Burns has not been seen since he left his home on September 24, 2020, one day before he was scheduled to relinquish documents related to his businesses to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The vehicle he was driving was found abandoned in Dunwoody, Georgia. Inside the vehicle were copies of three cashier’s checks totaling more than $78,000. If you have any information about Burns’s location, or if you think you were defrauded [by Burns], please contact the FBI Atlanta field office at 770-216-3000 or go to tips.fbi.gov.

This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation. For further information, please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016 [or contact the] U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia at http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!