Navy Times recently turned to Attorney Bill Cowden for his insight on the developing case against a suspended Navy engineer who has been charged with social security and tax fraud. The indictment indicates the engineer, James Robert Baker, also has suspicious ties to Iran.
Iranian-born Majid Karimi became a US citizen in 1985 and changed his name to James Robert Baker. He has worked in the Navy for three decades, but, as investigators recently discovered, he also continued to conceal ties to Iran and documentation he used to retain his "Majid Karimi" identity, including multiple social security cards and passports. He stands accused of 14 counts of fraud, including lying on his SF-86 security clearance. Attorney Cowden believes Baker's security clearance should have initially received greater scrutiny during the vetting process.
"He shouldn’t have a security clearance, no questions about it," he told Navy Times. "This is just another example of what’s causing a lot of people to question whose dropping the ball on security clearances. You have leaks of government information, you have people accessing personnel records and you have this. It just doesn’t give you a lot of confidence that the government is doing a good job of vetting people.”
SUSPICIOUS WIRING OF MONEY
According to the indictment, Baker's security clearance had been questioned before, including shortly after 9/11, after he used an Iranian passport to fly to Iran. His clearance was suspended, but Baker successfully appealed the suspension. Records also show he was paid more than $100K from a source overseas. While some might suspect espionage in this case, Attorney Cowden told Navy Times that the indictment is silent as to any such charge and the window for cooperating on that kind of charge has likely closed—especially now that the fraud indictment against Baker is public.
"It’s probably frustrating for the prosecutor. They probably think there’s something more going on here, he’s got money coming in from overseas and probably don’t know what the source of it is and haven’t been able to get as far into it as they’d like," he told the paper. "Or they’ve run it to ground and they think he’s a social security and tax fraud."
Attorney Cowden suspects Baker—who is currently suspended from his job with Naval Sea Systems Command—has "lawyered up" and is no longer cooperating with prosecutors and investigators: "You’ve got a guy who’s been investigated for more than eight months, and because there is a public indictment, the message is he’s not cooperating," Attorney Cowden said. "The fact that there is a public indictment out there, they’ve thrown 14 counts at him, that seems to be what they can uncover as provable crimes. They’re not huge crimes, not the kind of crimes that will put him in jail for 20 years or longer."
You can read all of the Navy Times report and Attorney Cowden's comments at the Navy Times website.