Former American River College business instructor Gregory Scott Baker has been sentenced to five years and four months in prison in a fraud scheme that bilked the United Auburn Indian Community of more than $18 million through inflated construction project invoices and kickbacks, federal prosecutors say.
U.S. District Judge Troy L. Nunley ordered Baker, of Newcastle, to make restitution of the $18 million he and several other defendants funneled from the tribe during the 2006 and 2007 construction of a school, community center and administrative offices in Auburn.
In addition to defrauding the tribe, Baker, 48, was sentenced for conspiring to launder money and filing a false tax return, according to the announcement from Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip Talbert.
Baker served as the tribal administrator of the United Auburn Indian Community and was entrusted to oversee its building project, federal prosecutors reported. Sentencing occurred May 26. The tribe owns Thunder Valley Casino, but the building project was unrelated to the casino.
Baker received more than $1.4 million from the scheme and used it to pay bills, install a pool at his Newcastle home, buy a luxury automobile and purchase a condo in South Lake Tahoe, as well as several rental properties, according to court documents.
Two other defendants have pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and filing false tax returns. Bart Wayne Volen, 54, of San Diego, a developer, was hired in 2006 to finish construction of four tribal buildings. He submitted inflated invoices for the work. Another defendant, contract employee Darrell Patrick Hinz, 48, of Cameron Park, was hired to be the construction manager for the tribe. He joined Baker in approving the invoices, according to court documents. Hinz and Volen await sentencing.
Doug Elmets, spokesman for the Indian community, said the Baker sentence brought the tribe some solace.
“Just as the United Auburn Indian Community was beginning to achieve success, they fell victim to Greg Baker’s wicked and painful fraud,” Elmets said. “Since the crimes became known, Greg has shown absolutely no remorse. The tribe realizes they may never be made whole. But the strong sentence that Greg Baker was given certainly begins the healing process.”
Baker was indicted in 2012 and was initially removed from the classroom at American River College and reassigned to coordination and support responsibilities. But he returned to teaching in 2013 with a reduced course load that eventually grew again to a full-time teaching position.
Among his classes were two sections of “Introduction to Business.” That 54-hour course included about four hours of ethics instruction, said Ryan Cox, associate vice chancellor of human resources for Los Rios Community College District.
“We ensured that he did not teach classes that had an emphasis on business ethics,” he said.
Cox said Baker was allowed to continue working at American River College because he had not been convicted. He was paid an annual base salary of about $98,500 at the time of his resignation last Dec. 18, plus pay for his “extra load” of two additional classes.
Cox said that under the California Education Code there are grounds for discipline when a teacher is convicted of a felony or a crime of moral turpitude. “As a professor, he has quite a bit of rights and protections,” Cox said. After Baker pleaded guilty last November, he was placed on paid adminstrative leave until his resignation took effect.