COURTS: He agreed to repay homeowners but left the L.A. area before a scheduled court date. By Denise Nix STAFF WRITER Norman Baker’s disappearance after he was convicted of swindling homeowners out of nearly $100,000 in insurance premiums proved costly Wednesday when a judge sentenced him to three years in state prison. Baker, who has paid back half of what he stole, was expected to return the rest of the money and receive probation. But Torrance Superior Court Judge Eric Taylor sided with Deputy District Attorney Paul Guthrie, who said Baker was not trustworthy and his victims wanted him behind bars. “If there was ever a worse candidate for probation, I don’t know who it is,” Guthrie said. Baker and his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Pamela Villanueva, argued that Baker just wanted to repay his victims – and wouldn’t be able to from prison. Baker said he went to Georgia to find work so he could pay them back. His plan was thwarted, however, when California Department of Insurance investigators found him and arrested him. “It upset me very much that this happened,” said Baker, a father of four daughters, including a 10-year-old who has a medical condition that causes seizures and comalike states. “I had the opportunity in Atlanta to make money,” said Baker, who blamed the subprime mortgage market for his failure to earn the remainder of the money he owed. Baker, 52, pleaded no contest in November to one count of grand theft and agreed to pay $95,038.65 he stole from homeowners while posing as a licensed public adjuster. Baker convinced nine homeowners around the Los Angeles area, including Inglewood, Commerce and Watts, that he would help them recover claims for rain damage. He obtained several insurance settlement checks, and instructed the homeowners to endorse the checks so he could use the funds for repairs to their properties. He never arranged for the repairs and took the money. When he made his plea, he agreed to repay the money in two lump sums. He made the first payment in January, but when he was to appear in court June 7 to pay the rest and be sentenced, he didn’t show up. The judge issued a warrant for his arrest, and Baker was captured in Lawrenceville, Ga. He was returned to California on Aug. 10. Because he failed to appear, Baker was held on 14 charges that were still pending. Normally, in plea agreements, outstanding counts are dismissed at sentencing. So when the judge said he was not going to let those charges drop, Baker agreed to accept an additional year in prison and gave up six months’ credit he received in jail, which can be applied toward a prison sentence. [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!