APPLETON, Wis. - An Appleton woman will turn herself in to the federal prison in Lexington, Ky. on Wednesday morning. But given her offense and her care for needy children back home, she questions whether her punishment fits the crime.
Diane Baugh was convicted in federal court back in August on three counts of tax evasion. She failed to report money she made while buying and selling scrapbooking items on eBay.
"It all started out really small, small, small and then over the years it built up and before I knew it," Baughsaid while recounting what got her in trouble.
The government says she made $300,000 in profits over three years. The court found her guilty in a plea deal and sentenced her to 15 months in federal prison.
"I think white-collar offenses in particular have a strong element of deterrence to them. And I think to deter others from committing this type of behavior, a fair and just sentence has to be imposed and I think was imposed in this case," said U.S. Attorney Bill Roach.
"My only crime is I didn't pay taxes on the money. That's what I didn't do and I'm sorry and I want to make restitution, I truly want to make restitution," said Baugh.
Baugh was ordered to pay the IRS $86,000 and Hobby Lobby more than $2 million. As it turns out, the items she bought and the sold for pennies on the dollar were actually stolen from the retail giant - something she says she didn't know at the time. An Indiana woman is serving five years in prison for that crime.
But Baugh doesn't think prison is the right place for her given her otherwise clean record and current employment.
For the past three years, she has worked as a caregiver to children with physical and mental disabilities at the licensed Wegner Family Foster Home in Kimberly. During that time, she has become a trusted, key figure in the children's lives - a bond with each child is one that is difficult and takes time to form.
The five children under care have become close to Baugh, who made memory photo books for them as she prepares to go to prison.
"I'm not sure why it's going to do anybody any good to put me there, but someone must know something I don't know," said Baugh.
At Baugh's request, the court twice delayed when she needed to report to prison so that the Wegner home could find and train a worker to replace Baugh.
"That's something we're sympathetic toward at least," said Roach. "We agreed to her self-reporting. Most defendants go into custody the day they are sentenced. She was sentenced six months ago."
But two weeks ago, with time running out, Baugh filed a motion to modify her sentence. She asked the court to allow her to serve her time under "house arrest" while working at the Wegner home. The home's owner, Kathie Wegner, says the children, dependent on care workers, will also be penalized if Baugh goes to prison.
But preparing for the worst, Wegner has finally found workers she can at least train to fill in, but she says they won't be able to replace her.
"No, because (of) the love the kids have for Diane, and the bond, and the three full years that we spent (as a family)," said Wegner. "And Diane did exactly what I am doing, loving them and giving them every opportunity to be the best they can be."
Despite the tears that flow easily from Wegner, and the consequences one's crime has on others, the law is the law. Chief Judge William Griesbach overseeing the case sided with the prosecution that Baugh must head to prison, that house arrest isn't enough.
From Baugh's perspective, while continuing to care for these children, she would be able to start paying back her court-ordered restitution. And she would be saving taxpayers money. The government estimates it costs about $30,000 a year to house each federal prisoner.
"At least I could continue to be a service to people instead of a burden on the taxpayers," said Baugh.
Roach says home confinement isn't acceptable under the circumstances in this case.
"I think the law was followed and that's the consequence of doing criminal behavior," said Roach. "We're at the belief that to promote respect for the law and reflect the seriousness of the offense and any other factors that come into play at sentencing, that it's time to serve your sentence."
Baugh reports to prison Wednesday morning, leaving in her place those memory scrapbooks she made for the children.
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