A former emergency preparedness director for Maine Medical Center pleaded guilty Wednesday to two federal felonies for impersonating a Homeland Security employee to illegally obtain two boats and other equipment from the government.

Joshua Cory Frances, 44, of Falmouth admitted to federal program fraud and wire fraud during a virtual hearing at the U.S. District Court of Maine in Portland. He also agreed to forfeit the vessels – a 44-foot sailboat named Courageous and a 27-foot Boston Whaler – as well as two marine outboard engines. Federal agents seized them last year before Frances was indicted.

Frances sat in front of the camera, apparently at home and wearing a suit jacket and tie, and he did not speak except to enter his plea and to answer questions from U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen.

The maximum prison sentence for the felony convictions is 10 years for the program fraud and 20 for the wire fraud. Frances could also face hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and restitution. In exchange for his plea, Frances waived his right to appeal a sentence of less than two years, and four other charges against him will be dismissed. Frances also agreed to a version of events set out in a summary document by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

At the time of the crimes in 2015 and 2016, Frances held the emergency preparedness job at Maine Medical Center. He was also the head of Maine Task Force One, a group of physician assistants and emergency medical technicians from the hospital who provided emergency medical services and aid stations at events, including air shows and the Maine Lobster Dip in Old Orchard Beach. Maine Task Force One was not a law enforcement agency.

The prosecutor said evidence would show Frances used a government email address and repeatedly identified himself as an employee of the federal Department of Homeland Security. In 2015, he contacted a federal agency that oversees the transfer of excess Department of Defense property and equipment that might otherwise be destroyed to law enforcement agencies in the United States. Frances falsely represented Maine Task Force One as a law enforcement agency and got approved to participate in that program.

He then acquired two marine outboard engines, the Boston Whaler and the sailboat that had previously been used for U.S. Navy training. Frances initially told investigators that he used his own money to transport that sailboat from California to Maine, but he later admitted that he used more than $14,000 of Maine Medical Center funds. In 2017, Frances advertised lodging on the sailboat for $225 a night.

“Josh made some mistakes here with obtaining equipment and he owned that with his plea today,” defense attorney Walt McKee wrote in an email. “When we finally get to sentencing I think you will see that at the end of the day he was a solid leader of Maine Task Force 1 and his heart was always in the right place.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Clark said in an email that he did not have any comment to add beyond the hearing.

The original complaint says Frances was terminated from his job at Maine Medical Center in August 2016 for expending hospital funds “for inappropriate and unauthorized purchases for Maine Task Force One operation and/or Mr. Frances’ own personal use,” “being dishonest and misrepresentative in connection with financial transactions” and other “inappropriate” and “unprofessional” conduct.

“Maine Medical Center is pleased to see that the case against Josh Frances is moving toward a conclusion and that he has accepted responsibility for his actions. We are hopeful to secure future restitution for MMC losses,” Clay Holtzman, a spokesman for Maine Medical Center, said Wednesday.

Frances is not in custody while he waits for sentencing. That hearing has not been scheduled yet.


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