Notorious Designer Is Set to Enter Plea 

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Former Richmond-area interior designer Michael Baker "is tentatively scheduled to plead guilty" to embezzlement charges next month in Charleston County, S.C., according to a letter sent to his alleged victims by the Charleston solicitor's office.

Baker is charged with embezzling thousands of dollars from his former employer, Charleston Gas Light.

But contrary to the letter, Charleston assistant solicitor Kim Steele says she has no idea how Baker will plead. "There's no plea deal or arrangement," Steele says, cautioning that the letter is just a routine notice. "I haven't made any offers."

Baker has been in Charleston County Jail since his extradition from Florida, where he was picked up on a minor traffic infraction in the fall.

After Baker's arrest, Charleston Gas Light's owner Debra McKinley and company vice-president Mitch Mitchell estimated that Baker had stolen at least $57,000. But the stakes have risen considerably. McKinley and Mitchell now say their tally is closer to $300,000. "There's the amount he allegedly stole, but at the same time, his actions caused the company other losses," Steele says.

And that doesn't include other alleged victims in Richmond. Baker, a former salesman at Plaid & Stripes on Libbie and Patterson avenues, left Richmond three years ago after similar charges that customers had been overcharged or had paid for items that never arrived.

Steele says the amount Baker allegedly stole is of no concern in the criminal case, even when it comes to sentencing. "In trying the case, the amount doesn't matter, unless it's in civil court. The [criminal] charge covers everything over $5,000." S

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