Former Irvine City Councilman C. David Baker was charged Wednesday with forging the signature of an Orange County Superior Court judge on a $48,000 check from a local nonprofit foundation that Baker headed at the time.
Baker allegedly wrote the check to himself during the final days of his unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination in the 40th Congressional District, when his campaign was desperately short of cash. At least one other signature from a foundation board member was required to make the check valid; Superior Court Judge David G. Sills was chairman of the foundation.
The single felony count was filed by the Orange County district attorney's office after a 10-week investigation. If convicted, the 35-year-old Baker could be sentenced to up to three years in state prison.
At the request of his attorney, Paul S. Meyer, Baker's arraignment was delayed until Sept. 23.
In a statement released Wednesday, Baker admitted that he had signed Sills' name on a $48,000 check from the Irvine Health Foundation without Sills' knowledge and deposited the check in his personal account. He did so, the statement said, to verify to his campaign staff that he had adequate funds to cover a series of last-minute political mailers that were considered crucial to his congressional bid in the June 7 primary.
The statement also said, however, that Baker, who was executive director of the foundation, placed a stop-payment order on the check within 24 hours and never intended for any money to leave the foundation's account. In fact, none of the foundation's money was ever transferred to the councilman's account, according to the statement.
But Deputy Dist. Atty. Christopher Evans said Baker did benefit from the forged check because it was used to show that there was money in his account and therefore in effect "covered the bills. There was an intent to defraud. . . ."
Sills, a one-time political ally of Baker, notified the district attorney's office of the alleged wrongdoing after he and other members of the foundation's board confronted Baker about missing checks five days before the primary.