CRASH AND BURN
Man Admits He Sold Gear From Marine One Squadron on eBay
A Marine with access to the president’s helicopter detail surreptitiously hawked night-vision parts online before he was busted.
A Virginia man has pleaded guilty to stealing equipment from the president’s Marine One helicopter squadron and selling them on eBay.
Branden Baker, 34, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to stealing nearly $100,000 in night vision supplies from Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia where he was a staff sergeant. After lifting the equipment from, Baker sold them on eBay, he confessed this week.
Baker’s resume on LinkedIn describes him as a seasoned technician with special expertise in aviation repair, which could have given him access to the presidential helicopter squadron.
From September 2013 to April 2015, “Baker stole at least fifty-one image intensifier tubes and other night vision parts worth approximately $94,392 from a department and agency of the United States, specifically from Marine Helicopter Squadron-One (HMX-l), a part of the Department of the Navy,” a statement of facts in Baker’s plea agreement reads.
Baker listed the stolen gear on eBay, where he would field potential clients, then finalize the deals over PayPal, his plea agreement claims. While it’s unclear how much Baker earned from selling pilfered Marine One goods, some of the stolen items could lead to significant windfall. Intensifier tubes, used in night vision gear, can sell for thousands of dollars on eBay.
Baker was well versed in dismantling complicated military equipment, his resume suggests. He began training as a Naval air technician in 2003, before being promoted into a specialist role as a calibration technician, and finally taking a leadership position as repair lab supervisor. His LinkedIn connections endorsed him for equipment and electronics repair skills.
But while his technical skills saw him climb ranks in the Marines, he was also building an off-the-books business.
Public records suggest Baker may have begun operating a business under the name “Covert Customs” out of his home in 2014 midway through his string of heists, although Virginia’s State Corporation Commission could find no record of the company. The pseudo-military name is similar to that of other online business that sell surveillance and night-vision equipment.
Baker pleaded guilty before prosecutors could press criminal charges against him, the DOJ spokesperson said.
He will be sentenced for theft of government property in August, when he will face up to 10 years in prison. His plea agreement also requires him to pay $94,000 in restitution, the approximate value of the night vision equipment he stole.
Baker’s attorney did not return a request for comment.