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Press Release

Leeper, Pa., Man Admits Taking Minor Across State Lines For Sex

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Pennsylvania

PITTSBURGH - A resident of Clarion County, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty in federal court to a charge of interstate transportation of a minor for purpose of engaging in unlawful sexual activity, United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced today.

Joshua D. Baker, 33, pleaded guilty to one count before United States District Judge Cathy Bissoon.

In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that in 2012, Baker was 31 years old, and resided in Clarion County. He became acquainted with 12-year old girl when they met at a family function in 2012. The juvenile girl’s mother was engaged to Baker's cousin, who lived with the juvenile girl and her mother.

On March 27, 2013, Baker and his wife had received a check for $5,000 from their auto insurance carrier to cover the damage that Baker's vehicle sustained in a recent accident. They cashed the check and went to a car dealership for the purpose of purchasing a new vehicle. Baker left his wife at the dealership and went home. After arriving at his home, Baker gathered some personal belongings and drove away in the family car. He took the $5,000 cash from the insurance check with him. His farewell note to his wife stated that he wanted a divorce and was going on a long trip.

On the night of March 27, 2013, the juvenile girl was at her residence, waiting for Baker to pick her up. At this time, Baker was 31 and the juvenile was 13. She waited until her mother went to bed at around 1 a.m., on March 28, 2013. The juvenile girl’s little brother thereafter saw her leave the residence at approximately 2 a.m., carrying a backpack. She said she was going for a walk with a friend. On March 28, 2013, the juvenile’s mother notified police that her daughter was missing.

On or about Wednesday, April 3, 2013, Clarion police interviewed one of Baker's friends. The friend advised that Baker had bragged to him about his sexual relationship with the juvenile female.

On Thursday, April 4, 2013, Baker and the juvenile were seen in Rapid City, South Dakota. They went into a store to purchase eyeglasses for the girl. They scheduled an eye exam appointment for her for the next day. Baker provided his real name to the sales clerk, and the juvenile falsely identified herself. They told the clerk that they were brother and sister, but because they were holding hands, the clerk became suspicious. The clerk got Baker's license plate number when they were driving away. She also did a web search for Joshua Baker and saw the missing persons information pertaining to Baker and the juvenile girl, and then called the police. Baker and the juvenile did not return to the store for the eye appointment.

After receiving the report from the sales clerk, an FBI Agent working out of the Pittsburgh field office sent a lead to the South Dakota FBI, asking them to look for Baker’s vehicle in Martin, South Dakota, where Baker had previously visited when he was approximately 18 years old. On Saturday, April 6, 2013, local police and FBI Agents located Baker and the juvenile girl in that area, at which time Baker was arrested and the girl was placed in the custody of a local CYS agency.

While she was in custody, the juvenile told FBI agents that, since meeting Baker in 2013, they had engaged in sexual intercourse on numerous occasions, and had done so on the trip after leaving Pennsylvania.

Judge Bissoon scheduled sentencing for Dec. 2, 2014, at 10 a.m. The law provides for a total sentence of life imprisonment, a fine of $250,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offense and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Assistant United States Attorney Shaun E. Sweeney is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Clarion Police Department conducted the investigation that led to the prosecution of Baker.

Updated July 14, 2015