Federal charge: Former Bel Rio owner Jim Baldi back in court

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Convicted embezzler James K. Baldi is currently serving his sentence at the Cold Springs Correctional Unit in Greenville and could face additional prison time for a new federal charge. Convicted embezzler James K. Baldi is currently serving his sentence at the Cold Springs Correctional Unit in Greenville and could face additional prison time for a new federal charge.

He’s already behind bars for embezzling more than $200,000 from several local businesses, but the legal woes of former Charlottesville restaurateur and accountant James K. Baldi don’t appear to have ended. On Thursday, April 24, four months after he was ordered to serve three-and-a-half years of a 33-year sentence, Baldi appeared in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg on a single tax evasion charge.

According to federal court records, Baldi, who was once the co-owner of defunct Belmont restaurant Bel Rio, is accused of failing to pay an undisclosed sum in federal taxes on behalf of accounting clients during the third and fourth quarters of 2009 and the first and second quarters of 2010, about six months before he went on the lam in July 2010. According to his previous courtroom testimony, Baldi fled Charlottesville as his legal troubles mounted and after a civil suit brought by his former Bel Rio business partner resulted in a $50,000 judgment against him. He made his way across the country with his girlfriend, both working under assumed names and eventually settling in San Francisco. He was arrested by federal agents in early January, 2013 and pleaded guilty to five counts relating to the embezzlement in June.

In determining his sentence in December, Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Edward Hogshire emphasized his desire to balance punishment with the recognition that Baldi can’t begin to pay restitution to his victims, including The Wood Grill restaurant, Duraclean, and the owner of Cafe Cubano, until he’s released.

The additional federal charge, which carries a maximum sentence of five years, may or may not add time to his sentence, according to C-VILLE legal analyst David Heilberg, who notes that the charge is presented in a document known as “an information” rather than as a direct indictment. That means that Baldi has waived his right to a preliminary hearing and agreed to plead guilty.

“An information often means that there have been pre-charge negotiations and a settlement is in the offing,” said Heilberg.

According to court records, Baldi waived his right to the preliminary hearing on the same day the charge was brought and is scheduled to change his plea from innocent to guilty in federal court on June 18.

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