Maine man is accused of defrauding DLA, illegally acquiring Naval Academy sailboat

By DENNIS HOEY | Portland Press Herald, Maine | Published: June 19, 2020

PORTLAND, Maine (Tribune News Service) — Federal agents seized a former Maine Medical Center emergency preparedness director’s sailboat and fishing boat this week, alleging he used federal funds obtained illegally through his position to purchase the vessels for his personal use.

The seizure of the 44-foot sailboat and 27-foot Boston Whaler motorized fishing boat from 43-year-old Joshua Frances, of Falmouth, took place Tuesday morning at the Royal River Boat Yard in Yarmouth, according to documents filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in U.S. District Court.

The government removed the sailboat’s mast and placed it in storage at the boatyard. Frances’ fishing boat also was seized. The seizure was authorized by U.S. Magistrate Judge John V. Vinson.

A message left on Frances’ cell phone Thursday night was not returned. Frances does not have an attorney, according to court documents.

A summons and copy of the criminal complaint against Frances, dated June 11, will require him to make an initial court appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge John H. Rich III of the U.S. District Court on July 9. The 11 a.m. appearance will be held via a videoconference call.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is charging Francis with federal program fraud, wire fraud, false representation and theft of government money, court records state. The property seizures and summons represent the first step in the government’s criminal case against Frances.

Michael L. Ryan, a special agent with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Inspector General, on June 11 filed an affidavit in support of the criminal complaint and seizure warrants that lays out the government’s case against Francis.

The 29-page affidavit provides details alleging Francis’ efforts to defraud the government for his own personal gain while working as the director of emergency preparedness for Maine Medical Center, a position he no longer holds, and as a commander and agent for Maine Task Force One, a national program that is is overseen by the Maine Emergency Management Agency.

Maine Task Force One employees are not Department of Homeland Security employees and have no DHS credentials or identification, Ryan said. Maine Task Force One is also not a law enforcement agency and does not have have a defined role within the U.S. military. Maine Task Force One was sponsored by Maine Medical Center. Frances left his job with the Portland hospital in August 2016.

In his affidavit, Ryan accuses Frances of using federal funds to acquire the sailboat, named Courageous, and the Boston Whaler, as well as two marine outboard engines, for his personal use. The affidavit also alleges that Frances acquired more than 200 military supply items ranging from tents, lockers and modular sleep systems, and a Range Rover vehicle, with federal funds.

Frances falsely represented himself as agent with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and a member of law enforcement to obtain funds from the Defense Logistics Agency, according to Ryan. The Defense Logistics Agency manages the global supply chain from raw materials to end users for all branches of the U.S. military, supplying 86 percent of the military’s spare parts and nearly 100 percent of fuel and troop support consumables. The DLA is headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

In September 2015, Frances wrote an email to the U.S. Naval Academy’s sailing program in which he identified himself as a commander who oversees a special ops team for DHS in Portland, Ryan states in his affidavit. Frances convinced the U.S. Naval Academy to transfer the Courageous, valued at $50,000, from the U.S. Naval Reserve Training Officers base at a California university to the boatyard in Yarmouth.

Ryan said that Maine Emergency Management Agency did not authorize the purchase of the sailboat or the Boston Whaler.

“There is probable cause to believe that the defendant (Frances) devised a scheme for obtaining property by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises,” Ryan states in his affidavit.

If convicted on the charge of wire fraud, Frances could face up to 20 years in prison. Federal program fraud and theft of government money carry a maximum prison term of 10 years. He also could be facing fines, if convicted of the criminal allegations lodged against him, that could be as high as $250,000.

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