Friday, January 15, 2021

Former construction firm CFO stole money from business to fund luxury lifestyle

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The former chief financial officer of a Sussex County construction company was arrested Thursday and charged with embezzling millions from the business and spending the money on his mortgage, a luxury car and six donkeys, authorities said.

Jonathan Baker, 38, of Green Township, was arrested by FBI agents after a federal grand jury indicted him on five counts of wire fraud and three counts of money laundering, according to U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito.

Baker held high-level positions in two companies and defrauded both companies and several commercial lenders by altering bank statements, balance sheets and bank accounts from 2015 to 2018, authorities said.

“Baker misappropriated millions of dollars from the (companies’) bank accounts and used the funds for his personal expenses, including mortgage payments on Baker’s residence, the purchase of a BMW, and the purchase of six donkeys,” Carpenito said.

The indictment states Baker made a $20,000 payment to Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, wrote a $15,000 check to BMW of Newton and spent hundreds of thousands more on personal expenses. Carpenito added that Baker allegedly made unauthorized purchases on company credit cards.

Carpenito alleges that Baker lied to others in the companies when they confronted him with evidence of the fraud, telling them “a commercial lender had made a mistake in filing a lien” against one of the businesses.

Baker “repeatedly misrepresented that the commercial lender would be issuing a retraction and apology,” Carpenito said.

When members of the companies tried to organize conference calls to discuss the liens, Baker “refused to produce the companies’ bank statements, changed the locks on the companies’ offices, and attempted to disable the companies’ email and phone system,” Carpenito said.

If convicted of all charges, Baker faces 30 years in prison and fines of more than $500,000.

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