Excess risk often gets brokers into trouble. One former broker, however, took risk much, much further when he allegedly wielded a knife in a robbery of a Connecticut bank. Not once, but twice.
Driven by the failure of his planning business, mounting debt and, according to authorities, an addiction to painkillers, Kevin W. Baker stole more than $30,000 from the First National Bank of Suffield last month and this month.
Baker is a former broker for National Planning, who later became a consultant to financial planners.
'I DON'T WANT TO HURT ANYONE'
On Jan. 27, Baker allegedly walked into the First National Bank branch in East Granby, Conn., in a black knit cap, with a neck gaiter pulled up to sunglasses. Jumping over the counter, he threatened a teller with a serrated knife, saying, "I don't want to hurt anyone. Give me your 100s," according to the arrest warrant.
"Let's do this again," Baker allegedly said 12 days later at the same bank, again presenting a knife. "You know the drill. All large bills."
The second heist added $14,539 to the $15,867 from his first. A witness noticed Baker walked with an unusual gait and a pronounced hunch on his way out of the bank after the first robbery. Baker had undergone four spinal surgeries and his addiction to painkillers flared while taking oxycontin, the warrant says. Both times, Baker fled the scene in one of his cars.
The second time, he managed to elude police despite the fact that vehicles from four police departments participated in the chase. Two officers got out of their car and drew their guns on Baker at a home in Simsbury, Conn., where he had squealed up the driveway. Baker reversed quickly, nearly hitting one of them, and pealed out across a lawn and over a small wall, to escape, the warrant says.
Tips from witnesses and a Google Maps image of one of the getaway cars sitting in the driveway of his West Hartford, Conn., home aided in his identification — as did the fact that Baker had customized license plates that feature his initials.
'WHAT HE'S DONE IS HORRIBLE'
"I've known him for over 20 years," says Lincoln Collins, co-founder of WealthVest, a Bozeman, Mont.-based third-party wholesaler of fixed annuity insurance products that employed Baker as a regional director to train advisors on the East Coast. "We worked together. I know his wife and obviously what he's done is horrible. He was let go immediately. I can only feel terrible for his family."
Baker joined WealthVest at the end of 2015, says Collins, a former CEO of Hartford Life in Europe. "Obviously, he cleared all background checks."
Baker trained planners in various insurance products and also ran 4D Private Wealth Strategies, which Baker’s LinkedIn profile describes as "a truly world-class consulting firm for professional financial advisors and their clientele."
EX-NATIONAL PLANNING BROKER
Given that he worked as an independent contractor for WealthVest, Collins said he could not say for sure whether Baker had been working as a financial planner for clients on his own time. Prior to joining WealthVest, Baker spent almost two years as a broker with National Planning between December 2013 and October 2015.
Baker's FINRA BrokerCheck report shows a 20-year unblemished record that spans employment with firms including MetLife Investors, Sun America and American Skandia. His registration lapsed in Oct. 2015. Collins says he was "just getting started" in his new WealthVest job. "It's a horrible thing. He's got four girls. He's going to jail in all likelihood," Collins adds. "He had an addiction that he tried to kick. … These drugs are overprescribed."
$120,000 IN DEBT
A friend of Baker's wife, Katherine, called police Feb. 13 to report that she had texted her saying her husband had robbed a bank, according to the warrant. Katherine Baker had recognized the bank suspect in online photos as her husband.
Police went to speak with Katherine Baker, who then called her father-in-law on a speaker phone, with state troopers in the room. Although Baker had denied committing the crime to his wife, police heard the elder Baker tell his daughter-in-law that his son had told him he had robbed a bank. Katherine Baker told police her family was in financial straits, with debts of $120,000. Since his arrest, friends of the family have contributed more than $32,000 into a GoFundMe campaign intended to aid Baker’s wife and daughters.
Previously, as his troubles deepened, Katherine Baker told police her husband had replaced the diamond in their engagement ring with a cubic zirconia and borrowed money from family members.