A former Kent Little League treasurer on Friday received a 22-month prison sentence for stealing more than $200,000 during an 18-month period from the youth baseball and softball organization.
King County corrections officers handcuffed Kevin L. Baker, 50, of Maple Valley, after King County Superior Court Judge LeRoy McCullough issued the sentence at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent. McCullough also ordered Baker to repay the league $208,743.
“I just want to say I’m so deeply sorry for letting Kent Little League members down as treasurer,” Baker said to the court prior to his sentencing. “All of the years as treasurer I tried to be the best treasurer I was. Like my attorney said, I just got out of hand. I bought a business I probably shouldn’t have. I lost everything, and my dignity and the trust of people. I’m just ready for whatever you give me.”
Baker pleaded guilty in May to six counts of first-degree theft (value of more than $5,000) and two counts of second-degree theft (value of more than $750) in connection with taking money from the group’s bank accounts during a 16-month period in 2012-13. He used some of the funds in an attempt to keep his newly acquired Benchwarmer Sports Bar and Grill in Kent afloat, according to charging papers. The bar along Russell Road has since closed.
McCullough said because Baker does not have a criminal history, accepted responsibility for the crime, didn’t force the state to a trial and he poses no threat to community safety, he decided to issue a low-end sentence. But he declined to go below the minimum because of “a huge amount of money taken from a youth organization.”
“I think the low end of the standard range is enough to drive home the point that the theft was inappropriate and gives Mr. Baker enough time to think about it and at the same time gives him the opportunity to reintegrate into the community sooner than the 29 months so he can resume employment and work to paying the restitution that he’s already agreed to pay,” McCullough said.
Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Amanda Froh recommended the court sentence Baker to 29 months.
“This is an extremely unfortunate case all around,” she said. “I have no doubt that Mr. Baker was under an extraordinary amount of stress when he decided to make the decisions that he did that led us to the courtroom today.
“There are certainly a lot of people in this world who have stressful financial situations in their lives and they don’t resort to act after act after act of theft from a nonprofit, from a Little League, over the course of a year completely abusing the trust those people in the organization put into him.”
Baker made 271 transactions, from cashing cashier checks to withdrawing cash from bank machines out of the league’s bank accounts. He cashed two checks for more than $20,000 each.
Ronald Dale, a former Kent Little League board member for 14 years, spoke in court to support the maximum sentence.
“I was so shocked and disturbed when I heard what happened and then who had done it because he was a neighbor of mine,” Dale said. “I’m glad that it did not go to trial and he pleaded guilty. I think what the prosecutor has outlined seems to be fair.”
Two female friends of Baker showed up in court to support him but did not speak to the judge. One woman blew Baker a kiss as she left the courtroom before guards handcuffed him.
Williams, the attorney for Baker, argued for a sentence below the minimum. He tried to get the judge to apply a first-time offender rule that has a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail.
“Mr. Baker made a very terrible choice,” Williams said. “He got laid off from a job, decided to go into business and had no business experience whatsoever. He probably got taken by the seller of the business, he lost his shirt and started paying for the business with his own funds and then he started paying with Kent Little League funds and things got worse and worse.”
Williams then explained how Baker tried to get a loan out of Nigeria.
“Along came some Nigerian scammers who sent him an email and he took the email for gold,” Williams said. “There were carrying charges and fees so in order to get his $100,000 loan from the scammers he had to pay $20,000. Then another scammer came along who was going to undo what the first scammer did and he got scammed by them, too, and it turns out he lost approximately $100,000 given to these scammers. …Then he started to dipping into Kent Little League funds that were available to him.”
League president Greg Whitcomb discovered the financial shortfall after he tried to use a Kent Little League ATM card for a $20 purchase at Office Depot and the card was declined. He learned in December 2013 that funds appeared to be missing from league bank accounts. He reported the alleged theft to the Kent Police that same month.
The bank records showed Baker used league funds for personal expenses, including restaurant and bar tabs. Records also showed checks written to Baker and his business from the league accounts, including two cashier checks for as much as $20,000 each to his business account. Cash withdrawals from the league account by Baker coincided with cash deposits into his business account.
During Baker’s statement to the court, the judge asked him several questions, including whether he had a college degree. Baker replied that he did have a degree, in management information systems.
McCullough also asked Baker how as treasurer he could cash checks with just one signature.
“It’s not that difficult,” Baker said. “I know the bylaws of the Kent Little League that transfers are supposed to have double signatures but they just don’t look at that. As far as the ATM, anyone can make withdrawals if you knew the pin.”
Baker has only $1,600 to his name, his attorney said. Baker has worked the last four months as a driver for Uber, a private car transportation service, and made about $1,000 a month. Baker’s Maple Valley home is up for sale as a short sale and Baker isn’t expected to make any money from the sale.
The state Department of Revenue put a $18,000 lien on the sale, money the state refunded to the Kent Little League for unpaid taxes it owed during the time Baker stole funds from the organization.