Wellsburg woman handed sentence

WELLSBURG – A Wellsburg woman will be required to undergo 24 months of counseling in the 1st Judicial Circuit’s mental health court after pleading guilty to embezzling about $13,000 from the trade organization of which she was a secretary.

At a hearing Monday before Circuit Court Judge Ronald Wilson, Debra A. Baker, 61, of 130 Scenery Hill, agreed to the terms of a plea agreement arranged by her attorneys, Robert McCoid and Shane Mallett, and Brooke County Prosecutor Joseph Barki III.

Wilson noted if Baker complies with the sentence and hasn’t commited any other crime, her charge will be reduced to petit larceny, a misdemeanor, and it will be ruled she has served her sentence.

The judge said if she fails to complete the mental health court program, she will be sentenced to one to 10 years of prison for the felony charge of embezzlement and won’t be eligible for an alternative sentence such as community service.

Barki said Baker has repaid the money she embezzled and will be required to pay court costs involved in her prosecution. She also may not hold a position of trust while in the mental health court system, he said.

Barki said Baker’s attorneys didn’t disclose the reason for her eligibility for mental health court.

Baker, who left the courtroom with tears in her eyes, and Mallett declined to comment on the plea.

According to court documents, Baker was responsible for writing stipend checks for herself and other board members for the U.S. School Service Employees Association of West Virginia and she wrote checks for more than she was entitled between January 2012 and October 2013.

The criminal complaint filed against Baker by the West Virginia State Police states Baker confessed to the crime, saying financial difficulties led her to take the funds with the intention of replacing them.

The school service employees association represents school service personnel, such as custodians, bus drivers and cafeteria workers.

In March Baker resigned as secretary of the Brooke County Schools’ transportation department, a position she held for 11 years. School officials said the job didn’t require Baker to handle money.