News and Press Releases

James E. Baker Sentenced in U.S. District Cour

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bill Mercer, United States Attorney for the District of Montana, announced today that during a federal court session in Great Falls, on March 12, 2009, before U.S. District Judge Sam E. Haddon, JAMES E. BAKER, a 68-year-old resident of Cut Bank, appeared for sentencing. BAKER was sentenced to a term of:

  • Prison: 15 months
  • Special Assessment: $100
  • Restitution: $35,111.13

BAKER was sentenced in connection with his guilty plea to theft from an organization receiving federal funding.

In an Offer of Proof filed by the United States, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:

The Dislocated Workers Program helps eligible recipients in securing employment. Covered expenses typically include tuition, housing, and utilities. The applicant must provide a letter from his/her employer regarding the reason for displacement. Displacement relative to lay off qualifies an individual for the Dislocated Workers Program. Voluntary termination does not.

The federal government provides the Workforce Investment Act funding to the Montana Department of Labor. The program is referred to as Project Challenge-Work Again, and is completely funded with federal money (over $10,000 in funds per year). The Montana Department of Labor utilized the Montana Job Training Partnership, Inc., to administer the Workforce Investment Act funds, which included funds for the Dislocated Workers Program. The AFL-CIO acts as the service provider and has several offices throughout the state. Program coordinators accept applications, determine a person's eligibility to participate in the Dislocated Workers Program, and acts as case manager once they are enrolled.

BAKER was an AFL-CIO program coordinator in the Cut Bank office. K.Z. is BAKER'S stepdaughter.

Prior to June 3, 2002, K.Z. was an employee of the Browning School District. K.Z. had been employed as a teacher's assistant in the high school for two years, and then a business office clerk in the Administration building for four years. K.Z. submitted a letter of resignation on June 3, 2002, that was accepted by the school board on June 11, 2002. K.Z. then applied for and received, through BAKER, benefits under the Dislocated Workers program. BAKER did not reveal this relationship to his supervisors - as he knew he should have and was expected to do - when he enrolled K.Z. into the program. The United States would have presented evidence that K.Z. was ineligible for this or any other program being administered by BAKER.

During the fiscal years of 2002-2005, K.Z. received over half (51%) of all monies that had been provided to participants enrolled through the Project Challenge-Work Again office in Cut Bank. During the four years that were audited, K.Z. received approximately $35,111.13 (close to $8,777.78 per year), whereas the other 54 members enrolled during the same period received a total of $33,909.36 (or close to $627.95 per year per member).

Because there is no parole in the federal system, the "truth in sentencing" guidelines mandate that BAKER will likely serve all of the time imposed by the court. In the federal system, BAKER does have the opportunity to earn a sentence reduction for "good behavior." However, this reduction will not exceed 15% of the overall sentence.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Carl E. Rostad prosecuted the case for the United States.

The investigation was a cooperative effort between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Montana Department of Criminal Investigation.



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