Accused Fairview Twp. cop released on house arrest, but guns seized
A Fairview Township police officer charged federally for allegedly stealing money from drug traffickers was released from prison Tuesday and is now on house arrest.
Officer Tyson Baker has been in federal custody at Dauphin County Prison since Friday, according to officials.
"He walked out of the courthouse with his wife today," defense attorney Jay Abom said. That happened mid-afternoon Tuesday, he said.
Baker was brought back to court on Tuesday so U.S. Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson could confirm all Baker's release preconditions had been met, according to Abom.
"He maintains his innocence," Abom said. "He will be pleading not guilty and will be requesting a trial by jury."
Baker was released on electronically monitored house arrest, according to court records.
Carlson on Monday gave the U.S. Attorney's Office 30 days to present its case to a grand jury, to see if the grand jury returns an indictment, according to the order.
Baker, 41, of Corn Hill Road in Fairview Township, is charged with robbery, destruction or removal of property to prevent seizure and making false reports to federal law enforcement, according to court records.
Waived hearing: He was scheduled to have a preliminary hearing and detention hearing in Harrisburg's federal court on Wednesday. That hearing was canceled on Monday when Baker appeared in court and waived his right to a preliminary hearing and detention, according to Dawn Mayko, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Harrisburg.
Also at the proceeding, it was determined that Baker would be released to electronically monitored home confinement with strict conditions, she said. At that proceeding, Carlson indicated he would be issuing an order releasing Baker.
Baker's conditions include turning in all his firearms, having no contact with Fairview Township Police or the department's employees, and having no contact with witnesses in the case, according to Mayko. He must also surrender his passport and avoid alcohol and drugs, she said.
Baker won't be able to travel outside the federal Middle District of Pennsylvania, and won't be allowed to leave his home except for medical visits, attorney appointments or to attend work, should he find another job, Mayko said.
Carlson's order states that FBI agents will go through Baker's home and remove all firearms and "dangerous weapons" before Baker is released.
Under the standard no-drug provision on Baker's release form, Carlson added a provision including no anabolic steroid use.
Baker's house arrest will be monitored by federal probation officers, she confirmed, and Baker's wife will act as third-party custodian.
That means if he violates any conditions of his house arrest, it is incumbent upon her to notify authorities, Mayko said.
The background: Baker, who has been a township officer for 17 years, was placed on paid administrative leave Friday, Fairview Township Police Chief Jason Loper confirmed.
Federal court documents (see below) against Baker, including a criminal affidavit, were unsealed Friday and reveal that the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office had another Fairview Township officer act as their confidential informant, and that the investigation of Baker included taped conversations.
In November, Baker "orchestrated" the theft of $2,000 in drug money seized by police during a drug raid that resulted in the seizure of about $14,000 and several pounds of marijuana, according to a news release from Mayko.
The confidential informant told the FBI that Baker is the sole provider for his family and makes $89,000 a year, but despite that spent money building a "very large" home on 10 acres of property, then built a 40-by-60-foot pole barn, a putting green and an in-ground swimming pool, finished his basement and also bought a $35,000 tractor and a brand-new Ford F-150 truck, according to the affidavit.
Baker was seen on occasion with large amounts of cash, the affidavit states. The informant told investigators that days after Baker pulled over a drug dealer, he was seen "buying drinks for everyone" at a local bar, according to the affidavit, which states the informant believes Baker stole between $5,000 and $10,000 from the dealer.
$10K missing? There was $10,000 in cash seized during that vehicle stop, but the drug dealer — who was later convicted — claimed there had been $20,000 cash in the car, according to the affidavit.
The informant also said Baker was sexually involved with a prostitute who told Baker when drug traffickers would be driving through Fairview Township, and what they would have with them, the affidavit states. The informant said the prostitute has since moved out of Fairview Township and is "in fear of Baker," according to the affidavit.
In a recorded Sept. 4 conversation between Baker and the informant about a drug dealer expected to drive through the area, Baker said, "That sounds like a rip to me, a straight out rip ... that will do some good," the affidavit states.
Last week, the FBI arranged for an undercover agent to be stopped in Fairview Township by township police, with help from the informant. After the stop, Baker had the vehicle towed from the scene, officials allege.
Hidden cash: The feds had hidden $15,000 cash and 400 fake OxyContin pills in the car, and a hidden camera caught Baker going through the bag of cash and taking some out, according to the affidavit, which states Baker found a hidden camera in the vehicle and removed it.
If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison on the Hobbs Act robbery charge and five years each on the other two counts, the news release states.
In a motion filed last week seeking Baker's continued detention, the U.S. Attorney's Office alleged that "a serious risk exists that (Baker) will obstruct or attempt to obstruct justice or threaten, injure or intimidate or attempt to threaten, injure or intimidate, a prospective witness or juror."
The motion also states that no bail conditions "will reasonably assure" that Baker will appear at future court hearings, and also claims Baker is a danger to the community.
Harassment case: Baker was found guilty of summary harassment in April 2011 for grabbing a man and taking him to the ground at a private social club on Jan. 1, 2011. He was ordered to pay $348.76 in fines and costs.
Baker was at the Goldsboro Fireman's Club when he grabbed Brandon Miller and took the man to the ground, police said at the time, because Miller was "running his mouth" and making threats to kill Baker and his wife, who also was at the club.
Baker previously served on the York County Drug Task Force but left prior to 2010, according to Kyle King, spokesman for the York County District Attorney's Office.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com.