THE long wait for justice may finally be over for victims of the Mr Woodz furniture store fraud as Christopher Baines has pleaded guilty to fraud and theft at a court in America.
Baines was convicted of 30 counts of fraud and sentenced to five years in prison at a trial in his absence in Swindon Crown Court last year.
He was charged with duping customers out of thousands of pounds from the store in the Brunel Centre.
He fled the country while on bail in 2012, and settled first in Canada before moving to the US states of Florida and then Georgia.
Baines was handed a three-year suspended sentence with seven years on probation at Madison Superior Court, with a view to being deported back to Swindon to serve the five years he was sentenced to last year.
He pleaded guilty to one count of financial transaction fraud, one count of theft and one count of influencing a witness ahead of the trial on June 23.
The witness in the case, one of Baines’ ex-girlfriends from Madison, helped authorities track him down to San Antonio in Texas by tracing the locations where he had been using her credit card. Following an eight-month wait in jail, Baines has now admitted culpability.
“In my opinion the sentence is not enough,” his ex said. “He has defrauded so many people he really deserves never to be out of jail unless he can be reformed.
“I was due to take the stand but I never had to do anything. He pleaded guilty because he knew if it actually went to trial he would get the maximum sentence.
“I just want to put the whole thing behind me now. I am done with him.
“We were only able to get him on the credit card fraud transactions.
“He had to make restitution for that and has been forced to pay me back $2,000, which is already with me. He still owes me $8,000, but I don’t expect to see a cent of that.”
The witness had to stand her ground ahead of the trial with Baines ordering her to drop the charges.
“He was writing letters to me and threatening me, telling me to drop the charges,” she said. “He even sent someone round to my shop with a letter telling me to drop the charges. You can’t do that, because it’s influencing a witness, so he got some extra time for that.
“I do know that the judge who granted him bail in England has requested for him to come back, and Clive Read with the fraud team over there is still working with all of us here. He has been in touch a few times to reassure us that he is still trying to get him back over there.
“All I want is for him to go back there and serve his time. Jail time here may be suspended, upon immigration picking him up and deporting him to England.”
Wiltshire Police have approached the Crown Prosecution Service for an extradition warrant and the fraud team have been working since 2012 to bring him back to this country since he absconded.