Mr Woodz fraudster due in court in USA
FRAUDSTER Christopher Baines will face fresh allegations when he stands trial in America today.
Baines evaded capture before he was found guilty of 30 counts of fraud at a trial in his absence in Swindon Crown Court last year. He was charged with duping customers out of thousands of pounds at the Mr Woodz furniture store in the Brunel Centre.
Baines had absconded the country in 2012 and adopted the alias of Chris Bartholomew, and lived in Canada, Georgia and Florida as he skipped from state to state.
After a number of new charges were levelled at Baines regarding his actions across the Atlantic, various police authorities including those in Winnipeg and Georgia, along with the FBI, launched a hunt to track him down.
Baines was eventually tracked down to a hotel in San Antonio, Texas, in October of last year. He was then extradited to Georgia to face criminal charges.
In December, the Morgan County Grand Jury returned an indictment for Baines, 48, on one count of financial transaction card fraud, one count of theft by taking, and one count of influencing a witness.
According to indictments and arrest warrants, Baines conducted a fraudulent card transaction with a woman and later allegedly threatened the woman with injury.
Being a known flight risk, Baines has now been detained in custody for eight months as he awaits his trial date, which has been listed for this morning after being adjourned in April while more evidence was gathered.
An extradition warrant has been sought by Wiltshire Police to bring Baines back to this country to serve the five-year sentence still pending.
American authorities still have Baines on their radar but may have to wait as he goes through the justice system in Georgia.
A spokesman for Winnipeg Police said: “The investigation into Christopher Baines, also known as Christopher Bartholomew, remains open and warrants are in existence.
“It does not appear at this time that attempts to extradite him will be made.”
One of Baines’ ex-girlfriends in America, who declined to be named, said she was getting nervous as the trial date approaches.
“It has taken us a long time to get to this stage, and it is difficult to know what will happen,” she said.
“There are limited charges he is facing and the evidence needs to be very convincing.”
Jody Johnson, one of Baines’ customers at the Mr Woodz store, said: “It is good to hear that he might be part of the way to coming back now.
“He needs to serve his time. All those people here suffered the consequences of his actions.
“I would like him back here and serving his time so I can feel like the whole thing is finished.
“He has been able to wander around the world getting away with it while those of us in Swindon have suffered.”