It’s hard to keep track of which Darlene Bakers victims came first. Hospitals. Dead clients. Her friends. The government. Each investigation unravel another victim from a different time. Baker ran a law practice handling wills and trusts. Her first conviction stemmed from a will she handled for a client who left his entire estate to St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Seattle. After the client died in 2014, Baker took $500,000 from the estate and invested it in interests she had in Paraguay. When the hospital asked where the money went, Baker stole from a close friend to repay the hospital. In March 2022, Baker was sentenced to eighteen months in prison for her crimes and released for good behavior in March of 2023.
Baker’s behavior in prison was not good enough to repay half a million to her friend though. That victim lost her whole retirement. But Baker failed to disclose that she owned property in Mexico which could be sold as restitution to her victims. So, the victim sued, prompting an investigation. Low and behold, the investigation revealed that Baker had not only been lying to her clients and friends. She had been lying to the government too. Lying to the government way before any of the others as a matter of fact.
Between March of 2020 and August of 2021, Baker sought to obtain $265,000 in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Funds and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), and successfully obtained over $80,000. In connection with the applications for the programs, Baker allegedly falsely claimed that she had lost all income due to the pandemic and stated that she would use the aid to meet payroll expenses for her business. In fact, throughout that period, Baker worked providing accounting and related services for a Gig Harbor, Washington, investment firm earning as much as $145,000. Baker also had no employees and no payroll obligations.
Shout out to the FBI in this investigation.
Today’s Fraud of The Day is based on article “Former Attorney who Stole From Clients now Pleads Guilty to COVID-19 Fraud” published by Big Country News on August 28, 2023
A former attorney in Washington state who was sentenced last year for stealing from a deceased client’s estate and scamming a personal friend pled guilty on Friday to a separate illegal scheme in seeking federal COVID-19 relief benefits.
Darlene Piper Baker, 58, of Port Orchard, is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 1 in U.S. District Court. She pled guilty to wire fraud and making false statements regarding her income in an unlawful attempt to obtain $265,000 in federal monies during the pandemic, said Tessa M. Gorman, acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington.