Home improvement contractor sentenced to probation, jail time

Wednesday,

An Eden Prairie contractor was sentenced to five years of probation and a year in the county workhouse for swindling customers, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Wednesday.

After two days of sentencing hearings, Hennepin County District Court Judge William Koch Tuesday sentenced Daniel Baker to 36 months in prison, but stayed that, meaning if Baker follows all of his conditions of probation for the next five years, he will not have to go to prison. However, Judge Koch said Baker must go to the county workhouse in Plymouth for 365 days. After 180 days, Baker could serve the rest of the time at home on electronic monitoring.

Judge Koch also ordered Baker to perform 160 days of community service and pay restitution of more than $711,000.

“This is a good sentence, in line with the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines,” Freeman said. “It is especially notable that Judge Koch rejected Mr. Baker’s claim that he simply made business mistakes. The jury found that he knew what he was doing. This was a Ponzi scheme, using new money to pay off the earlier debts.”

In March, a jury found Baker guilty of two counts of theft by swindle over $35,000 and one count of nonpayment for improvement. Baker owned Lifestyle Basements of Eden Prairie and police there began receiving complaints about failure to work on homes in 2014 and 2015. The homeowners would make a down payment and then the work would be greatly delayed or liens were placed against the home because subcontractors were not paid or no work was done at all.
 
The charges were for cases not only in Hennepin County but also Scott, Dakota and Carver Counties.

During the sentencing hearings, victims gave impact statements detailing how their lives were affected by the swindle. Witnesses for the defense tried to paint Baker as a businessman that got in over his head.