Billings man sentenced to five years in prison for sending nude picture of himself to fictitious girl in undercover operation
MISSOULA — A federal jury today convicted a Virginia man of attempting to solicit a minor for sex during an undercover investigation in Billings, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.
After a two-day trial that began in Missoula on Sept. 18, the jury found Mark Samuel Baker, 57, of Gore, Virginia, guilty of attempted sex trafficking of a minor as charged in an indictment. Baker faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years to life in prison, a $250,000 fine and five years to life of supervised release.
U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen presided. The court will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. A sentencing date will be set. Baker was detained pending further proceedings.
“Baker got caught in an undercover sting when he tried to arrange to have commercial sex with an individual he thought was a minor under 16. His conduct exploits children and contributes to the scourge of sex trafficking, which our office will continue to aggressively prosecute. I want to thank Assistant U.S. Attorneys Zeno B. Baucus and Kelsey A. Sabol and the FBI, Montana Division of Criminal Investigation and Billings Police Department for their investigation and prosecution of this case,” U.S. Attorney Laslovich said.
In court documents and during trial, the government alleged that from July 11, 2022 to July 13, 2022, Baker knowingly attempted to recruit and solicit a minor to engage in commercial sex. During the investigation, an undercover officer used the internet to post an advertisement purporting to be a female escort who was the minimum allowed posting age of 18. About six hours later, the undercover agent received a message in response to the ad from a phone number later identified to be Baker’s. Law enforcement responded on July 12, 2022 asking if Baker wanted “a date.” Law enforcement and Baker communicated over the next two days. One of the exchanges included: Law enforcement asks, “Are u ok if I’m not 18.” Baker responds, “Yes as long as you are ok I’m 49.” Law enforcement writes, “I’m almost 16 if ur cool w that.”
Baker and the undercover discussed how much time $80 would buy, and Baker said he wanted sex with the undercover officer. Baker also sent pictures of the cash he would use and of himself. They then made plans to meet in Billings and go to Baker’s hotel. Law enforcement arrested Baker on July 13, 2022 when he showed up at the designated time. A call was then placed to the phone number law enforcement had been texting, and a smartphone in Baker’s vehicle lit up with the undercover’s number. Law enforcement found $375 in cash, a hotel passkey and four condoms on Baker’s person.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Zeno B. Baucus and Kelsey A. Sabol are prosecuting the case. The FBI, Montana Division of Criminal Investigation and Billings Police Department conducted the investigation.
Clair Johnson Howard
Public Affairs Officer