Mt. Juliet couple charged with auto auction fraud

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Oct. 25—A Mt. Juliet couple has been charged by a federal grand jury after allegedly engaging in wire fraud and money laundering in Murfreesboro.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced on Monday that Stephanie Baker, 53, and Brian Baker, 52, of Mt. Juliet surrendered to federal agents last Friday alongside Jerry Hutchins, 48 of Dowelltown.

According to a press release, the trio defrauded a used automobile auction business in Murfreesboro and are accused of taking more than $2 million as part of that fraud.

“The federal indictment charges Stephanie Baker and Brian Baker, who are married, and Hutchins with a wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy,” the Department of Justice release stated. “The indictment also charges all three defendants with substantive offenses for acts of money laundering.”

From February of 2017 to November of 2018, Stephanie Baker worked as the general manager of Dealers Auto Auction Group in Murfreesboro. Her husband and Hutchins owned used car dealerships that did business with Dealers Auto Auction Group.

“The defendants devised a scheme to defraud Dealers Auto Auction Group, LLC by creating fake transactions to make it appear that the defendants’ businesses had sold cars at the auction and were entitled to receive funds from Dealers Auto Auction Group, when in fact the defendants had not sold vehicles at the auction,” the release said.

“Based on the fake transactions, Stephanie Baker caused Dealers Auto Auction Group to issue checks to Brian Baker’s and Hutchins’ businesses. Then, monthly, the defendants would create additional fake transactions using the same vehicles in order to conceal the original fraud and avoid detection. Brian Baker and Hutchins then converted proceeds of the fraud scheme for their own personal use and benefit.”

The information stated that the defendants will be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

If Hutchins, Stephanie Baker and Brian Baker are convicted, they would face a sentence of up to 20 years for wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, and the concealment of money laundering offenses. They would face an additional sentence of up to 10 years for money laundering.

“The indictment also contains a forfeiture allegation in which the government seeks to forfeit any property derived from the proceeds of the crimes, including a money judgment in the amount of at least $2,041.170 from Stephanie Baker, $1,357,310 from Brian Baker, and $683,830 from Jerry Hutchins,” the release stated.

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