Education

American River College instructor quits after pleading guilty to fraud against tribe

Gregory Scott Baker was part of a scheme to bilk the United Auburn Indian Community out of $18 million through a project that included a school that then-tribal chairwoman Jessica Tavares toured in 2007.
Gregory Scott Baker was part of a scheme to bilk the United Auburn Indian Community out of $18 million through a project that included a school that then-tribal chairwoman Jessica Tavares toured in 2007. Sacramento Bee file

American River College business instructor Gregory Scott Baker resigned last week after pleading guilty Nov. 5 to conspiring to commit mail and wire fraud, conspiring to commit money laundering and filing a false tax return.

The college accepted his resignation, which will be effective Dec. 18, said Ryan Cox, associate vice chancellor of human resources for the Los Rios Community College District.

Despite being under a federal indictment for fraud, Baker continued to teach classes at American River College until his plea agreement earlier this month, when he was put on paid administrative leave. Although Baker was initially removed from the classroom in 2012, he was allowed to return in 2013 with a reduced course load that eventually returned to full time, Cox said.

Baker, 48, who also worked as the tribal administrator for the United Auburn Indian Community, was charged in 2012 with conspiring with developer Bart Wayne Volen, 54, and construction project manager Darrell Patrick Hinz, 48, to bilk the tribe that owns Thunder Valley Casino out of $18 million.

Volen submitted inflated invoices for construction in 2006 and 2007 on the Indian Hills Office Project, knowing the two other men would approve the invoices based on an agreement between them, according to information from the U.S. attorney’s office. The buildings were unrelated to the casino.

Baker received more than $1.4 million from the deal 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.

Baker could not be reached for comment.

This semester, Baker had an an “extra load” teaching seven classes at American River College, including two sections of “Introduction to Business” which includes a section on ethics, confirmed Cox. Five classes are considered a full load, he said.

“That was the ultimate irony, that he would be teaching an ethics course while knowing full well that he bilked the tribe out of millions of dollars,” said Doug Elmets, spokesman for the United Auburn Indian Community. “The tribe is now pleased that he has finally admitted to his lying and will pay the price for his deceit.”

It was a bad decision to allow Baker to return to the classroom, Elmets said.

“He was indicted. He was under a federal indictment for embezzlement and wire fraud while he continued to teach those classes.”

Baker, who has worked at the college since 2000, was allowed to return to the classroom because he had not been convicted, Cox said. He said cases like this are infrequent and are treated case-by-case by the Los Rios Community College District.

“We have to look at the best interest of the district and our students,” he said.

His classes are now being taught by other instructors at the college, Cox added.

Baker’s sentencing is set for March 17. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, although the plea agreement recommends 78 months, or 6.5 years. Baker also will have to pay a fine, restitution and forfeit assets related to the crime.

Hinz and Volen also have pleaded guilty to similar charges in the case and await sentencing.

Diana Lambert: 916-321-1090, @dianalambert

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