A registered sex offender in Virginia allegedly masqueraded as a hot prospect being wooed by the Houston Astros, persuading a local mother and daughter to give him money and a place to live, with the promise of $5.5 million once he signed his impending contract with the 2022 World Series champions.
Janike Dunbar Holt, who was convicted in 2018 of indecent liberties with a minor, at one point convinced the pair they were texting with legendary Astros skipper Dusty Baker, according to a Nov. 30 search warrant affidavit obtained by The Daily Beast.
But when federal agents reached out to team officials about Holt, whose extensive collection of prison-style tats includes roughly a dozen of them on his face, they said they had no idea who he was, the affidavit states. Furthermore, the Astros had definitely “not entered into any type of contractual relationship” with the 27-year-old fugitive, it says.
“He was posing as Dusty Baker, he was posing as a lawyer, it was just a whole bunch of different people that he pretended to be,” victim Barbara Lillibridge, 50, told The Daily Beast. “He had me fooled.”
Lillibridge said her oldest daughter has two children with Holt’s brother, but she crossed paths with Holt for the first time when he showed up in Roanoke earlier this year.
“He messed my life up, and I’m still trying to catch up,” Lillibridge said, adding that she was recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and cannot work.
A judge in North Carolina, where Holt’s sex crimes occurred, sentenced him in August 2018 to 14 to 26 months in state prison, of which he served 13.5 months, according to corrections department records. Holt was then required to check in monthly with the sheriff’s office, for a period of at least 10 years, according to the affidavit. It says Holt last reported to the Alamance, North Carolina Sheriff’s office on Jan. 11, providing an address of “homeless,” after which he went dark.
The national sex offender registration system, SORNA, requires anyone convicted of a sex crime to notify county authorities of their presence and provide information about where they are living, working, or attending school. If an offender plans to spend more than 10 days away from the county within a 30-day period, this must be logged, as well.
It didn’t take long for the U.S. Marshals Service, the agency primarily tasked with tracking down violent fugitives across America, to locate their man. Another woman in Roanoke, identified in the affidavit as “S.M.,” told investigators that Holt showed up in February, and that they spent the next month together. She said Holt had been living with her on Liberty Road, and that they had only spent one night apart during that 30-day stretch, the affidavit states.
Briefed on Holt’s whereabouts, the Marshals Service and Virginia State Police arrested him on March 14. In an interview at the Roanoke City Adult Detention Center, Holt “admitted that he had been spending time” in Roanoke, but claimed he had been commuting back and forth between there and Burlington, North Carolina, about two hours away by car, “every few days and was not staying in Roanoke on a consistent basis,” according to the affidavit.
On March 16, Roanoke cops received a call from “B.L.” and “J.L.”—Barbara Lillibridge and daughter Jessica—saying Holt had scammed them out of $1,020, the affidavit continues. (Barbara Lillibridge told The Daily Beast her total loss was closer to $1,600, and that she was subsequently unable to make the monthly payments on two cars and a television, which have all been repossessed.)
B.L. and J.L. told police that Holt had gotten to Roanoke on Feb. 6 and, contradicting S.M.’s story, had stayed at their home on Lafayette Boulevard, the affidavit states.
“While staying with B.L. and J.L., Holt attempted to provide them with a check for $75,000 that he claimed was part of a payment for being falsely accused in his case in North Carolina,” the affidavit goes on.
Lillibridge said the check was obviously bogus, as it was a personal check belonging to Holt’s attorney in North Carolina. This struck her as an unusual way for a settlement to be paid out, among other glaring red flags, she said.
“He gave it to me to cash, but where she was supposed to sign her name, he had signed his name,” Lillibridge told The Daily Beast.
The affidavit says B.L. and J.L. also said they had received “text messages from individuals claiming to be affiliated with baseball teams that were purportedly recruiting Holt to play for them.” But something didn’t seem right, and B.L. and J.L. became suspicious of the check Holt provided, as well as “the circumstances surrounding his alleged baseball career,” according to the affidavit.
One of those reaching out to B.L. and J.L. “claimed to be Dusty Baker, the Manager of the Houston Astros Major League Baseball organization,” the affidavit states, noting that Baker has since left the ballclub.
“[T]he messages indicated that Holt would purportedly be signing a Major League Baseball contract with the Astros on March 30, 2023,” it says. “These messages also indicated that B.L.’s family would be moving to Houston, Texas with Holt to serve as his managers. Contained within the messages was additional text indicating that the Astros would provide B.L. and her family [with] homes, transportation to Texas, and a $5.5 million check upon Holt signing his Major League Baseball contract.”
Investigators traced “Baker’s” phone number to Appsverse, a company which offers, among other things, an app that generates additional numbers, to turn an existing cellphone into a virtual “burner” device, according to the affidavit. As for Holt’s claim that he had been “commuting” back and forth from Virginia to North Carolina, the affidavit says Verizon provided the feds with historical cell site data “reflecting that [Holt’s phone] pinged cell-sites in the Roanoke metro area—and only in the Roanoke metro area—beginning on February 6, 2023, and continuing until Holt’s March 14, 2023 arrest.”
Shortly after Holt was nabbed, a Marshals Service criminal investigator sent a letter to the Astros asking if they had had “any correspondence” with Holt, according to the affidavit.
“[A]n individual from the Astros responded to me that they had conducted a search for records related to Holt, and that the Astros have not entered into any type of contractual relationship with Holt, and they have no record of him,” the affidavit states.
The search warrant seeks information and data from Holt’s Appsverse account that investigators believe could “provide crucial evidence of the ‘who, what, why, when, where, and how’ of the criminal conduct under investigation.”
The investigation into Holt is ongoing, and he has not been formally charged with defrauding B.L. and J.L., according to court records. However, he was extradited from Virginia to North Carolina following his arrest, and returned to prison on the registration violation. Since he has been back behind bars, Holt has committed three new infractions including interfering with staff, disobeying an order, and assault with a weapon, jail records show.
Holt is now scheduled to be released in August 2025.