Ex-Marine Staff Sergeant Admits Stealing from Presidential Squadron

Presidential helo

A former Marine staff sergeant has pleaded guilty to stealing nearly $100,000 worth of gear and equipment from Marine Helicopter Squadron One, the Quantico, Virginia-based unit that transports the president and other executives.

Branden Roy Baker, 34, of Stafford, Virginia, pleaded Tuesday to stealing the items while assigned there as a presidential support specialist between September 2013 and April 2015.

According to the plea agreement, Baker admitted to stealing night vision equipment, including at least 51 image intensifier tubes, which he then sold, using eBay.com to find buyers and getting paid via PayPal.

In all, Baker's haul totaled $94,392.

According to records provided by the Marine Corps to Military.com, Baker joined the service in 2002 and had deployed three times: once in 2008 to Iraq and twice in 2009 and 2010 to Afghanistan.

He held three military occupational specialties: aviation precision measurement equipment calibration and repair technician, aviation quality assurance representative, and presidential support specialist.

Baker had earned the combat action ribbon as well as two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals and one Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal. Baker was discharged from the Marine Corps in June 2015, records show.

HMX-1 is responsible for transporting the president of the United States and includes the distinctive VH-3D "Sea King" and VH-60N "White Hawk" helicopters that take the call sign "Marine One" when he is aboard.

However, a Marine official said, Baker did not work in support of presidential travel. His task with the unit was to provide maintenance to the squadron's MV-22 Ospreys, which do not carry the president or vice president.

According to information provided by the Department of Justice, Baker pleaded guilty to theft of government property and is set to be sentenced Aug. 11. He faces up to 10 years in prison for his crime and three years of supervised release as well as a fine of $250,000.

While Baker's sentence will likely be less than the federal maximum, he was ordered on Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema to pay full restitution to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service at a rate of $100 per month.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @HopeSeck.

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