Friday, January 07, 2005

The 'It' Guy, Selling Crack Cocaine

Another Side Of A `Go-To Guy'

Corporate Leader Active In Community Affairs Accused Of Selling Crack

January 7, 2005 By TINA A. BROWN And DAN HAAR, Hartford Courant Staff Writers

To many in Hartford, Allan Baker was one of the corporate go-to guys whom they'd call upon when they wanted sponsorship for prominent events, such as an annual Hartford Symphony Orchestra concert to honor Martin Luther King Jr.

They saw Baker, then senior vice president for brand management at ING U.S. Financial Services, on stage at these events, dapperly dressed in a tuxedo, accepting accolades for his company's sponsorship.

Others saw Baker, a 6-foot-6 former Providence College basketball player, as a towering presence on the boards of the symphony, the United Way, the University of Connecticut School of Business and the Old State House.

That was Baker's public image: an unassuming corporate leader who could deliver private funding for public affairs.The Baker they didn't see is the man described by federal officials: a guy known on the streets of Hartford as "Big Al" who was dealing crack cocaine.

Friends say it became known in certain circles about a year ago that Baker had sought treatment for a drug problem, but they were stunned to hear that he had been arrested in December on a charge of selling crack.

Following a six-month investigation involving wiretaps, Baker, 52, of Glastonbury, was caught in a dragnet with 18 other Connecticut residents, including convicted felons and career criminals.

He was released on a $50,000 bond. The status of his case could not be determined Thursday.

As news spread this week that Baker had been arrested and named in a grand jury indictment on charges of conspiring to buy and distribute 5 grams of crack cocaine, his friends and associates expressed disappointment. But many declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the topic.

Baker served on the Old State House board a few years ago along with Kevin O'Connor, now the U.S. attorney whose office is prosecuting him.

Baker's lawyer, David Monz, declined to discuss the case.

Baker left ING in the fall. He had joined Aetna about six years ago, and Aetna later sold its financial services business to ING. Spokesmen for ING would not say Thursday whether his departure came before or after his indictment, or whether it was related.Friends and associates say they knew Baker had received treatment for drug abuse, but they found it hard to fathom that Baker was accused not of using but of dealing crack a world away from high society and corporate circles.

At ING, Baker was a senior manager with wide-ranging responsibilities over the years. Before heading brand management, he oversaw product management for some of the company's retirement and benefits plans, including the company's 401(k) business.

Beyond his management positions at one of the world's largest financial companies, Baker was designated in 2002 along with two other executives to represent ING as the face of the company on community boards. At the time, Thomas McInerney, the head of ING's U.S. financial services business, was relocating from Hartford to Atlanta, and some civic leaders were concerned about filling McInerney's many roles.

By then, Baker had served on the Old State House board.

"Allan is a fine guy. He's a good man," said Robert M. DeCrescenzo, who was chairman of the board when Baker was on the executive committee.

"He gave a lot to the Old State House. A lot," said DeCrescenzo, referring to time as well as Baker's own money.

"I was completely surprised when I heard about it."

One friend of 20 years said Baker's spiral started about three years ago. Baker, who kept a low profile when he wasn't working, started missing meetings and seemed detached, the friend said.

"He is a wonderful guy. I'm just so hurt," his friend said.

"He just got mixed up. If you can do something for so many people and have so many skills, you can't go down like that."

"He was one of the go-to guys in Hartford. It's so sad to lose a champion of the arts."

Baker, a Washington, D.C., native, played on the 1973 Providence team that reached the Final Four alongside Marvin Barnes, Ernie DiGregorio and Kevin Stacom.

The married father of two adult daughters was widely admired as an insurance giant and a role model for African Americans seeking success in business. He had worked at Travelers and Lincoln Financial before reaching a top corporate-ladder rung at Aetna and ING. He was a trustee at Providence College. At ING he helped create a program to attract women, minorities and gays to financial services careers.

He was not a man who allowed many to get close to him, said an associate who mingled with Baker and his family socially.Never the type to open up personally, Baker was most comfortable talking about work, the associate said. But he'd come alive in high-profile settings, such as when he was honored during Black History Month in Hartford last February.

"He was never really revealing," the associate said.

But then Baker had a demanding job, and demanding responsibilities, as one of the few black men on the boards of nonprofit organizations. He took public service seriously.

On the United Way board, for example, Baker could be very engaging and ask probing questions, one observer said.

"He attended regularly until he went into treatment last year," the observer said.

On the eve of the King celebration last year, Baker said, "America wouldn't be the country it is today" without King and his movement. Though King was a "flawed man," he said, his "life shows what can happen when someone is anointed and appointed by fate to provide service to others."

Courant Staff Writers Rachel Gottlieb and Tom Puleo contributed to this report.

The above came from the Hartford Courant website.

Fair use of copyrighted material

* * * *

My email to incoming Gov. Rell of Connecticut regarding Rowland and corruption

How can there not still be sleaze in the Connecticut Governor’s Office, if former Rowland aids are answering Rell’s phones? (post)

Telling your Attorney to go fuck himself- PRICELESS

A Justice System really has to be corrupt and out of hand for something to actually change

The Death of Shame in America
(O'Reilly of the O'Reilly Factor, Fox News, asks Gov. John G. Rowland to resign Dec. 2003)

* * * *

Can cops rape, rob, beat, and murder with immunity?
(post contains pictures of young adults brutalized by police, and picture of a 1978 Chevrolet Corvette and one of the houses I fixed up from a boarded up condition)

Are their unnamed factions in the US, similar to the KKK?

With rogue judges and their minions, police officers, do we really live in a Democracy? (post)

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