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Press Release

Former attorney, convicted of defrauding clients, now charged with defrauding taxpayers by falsely claiming COVID program benefits

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Washington
Following publicity of 2022 sentencing for fraud, citizen report led to discovery of other schemes

Tacoma – A disbarred attorney, sentenced last year to 18 months in prison for stealing money from a deceased client’s estate and defrauding a friend, is now charged by information with wire fraud and making false statements in connection with a scheme to illegally claim COVID pandemic benefits, and with lying to the government about her income, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman. Darlene Baker, aka Darlene Piper, 58 of Port Orchard, Washington, was sentenced in March 2022 to 18 months in prison for her scheme to steal a $500,000 bequest to a children’s hospital, and then defrauding a friend out of $500,000 to repay the estate. Piper has officially changed her name to Baker. She is scheduled for a plea hearing on the information on Friday August 25, 2023.

Following the sentencing hearing for the original wire fraud case, prosecutors were alerted that Baker had lied to the government about her income and work status. The investigation revealed that she had also lied to government agencies to obtain pandemic relief loans to which she was not entitled. The charging information alleges that 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.

The False Statement charge alleges that Baker lied on financial disclosure statements required by the court in her earlier criminal case. In those statements, Baker claimed to be out of work, when in fact she had substantial income working for the investment firm. Despite that income, Baker failed to repay the victim in the wire fraud case and claimed to have virtually no resources to pay restitution.

Darlene Piper was released from federal custody on March 16, 2023, but remains on supervised release.

Wire fraud in connection with a presidentially declared major disaster or emergency is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Making a false statement is punishable by up to five years in prison.

The charges contained in the information are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The case is being investigated by the FBI.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mike Dion.

On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the department’s response to the pandemic, please visit

Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at


Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Communications Director Emily Langlie at (206) 553-4110 or

Updated August 22, 2023

Disaster Fraud
Financial Fraud