Feb. 8-A former emergency preparedness director for Maine Medical Center was sentenced to five years in federal prison after falsely claiming he was a Homeland Security officer and using that identity to defraud several agencies out of more than $150,000.
Joshua Cory Frances, 46, was sentenced to 60 months for one count of wire fraud and another 60 months for one count of federal program fraud. He will serve both sentences concurrently, followed by two years of federal supervision.
He also must pay more than $87,000 in restitution to several organizations, including the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, Maine Medical Center, the towns of Falmouth and Brunswick and companies that specialize in federal defense vehicles.
Frances appeared before U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen on Wednesday, facing up to 30 years in federal prison. Under a plea deal that he signed with prosecutors, Frances has the right to appeal anything more than 51 months, but he must file it within 14 days.
Frances was the director of emergency preparedness for Maine Medical Center from 2015 until he was fired in August of the following year for misspending hospital funds and other "inappropriate behavior," according to a criminal complaint. He also was the head of Maine Task Force One, a group of physician assistants and EMTs who provided emergency medical services at events, including air shows and the Maine Lobster Dip in Old Orchard Beach.
Maine Task Force One is not a law enforcement agency, but Frances repeatedly used his government email address to identify himself as an employee of the federal Department of Homeland Security, according to court records. He used the fake connection to buy a Boston Whaler, a sailboat and two marine outboard engines from a federal agency that sells excess Department of Defense property. He embezzled more than $14,000 from Maine Medical Center to move the equipment from California to Maine, where he later rented the sailboat out for $225 a night on Airbnb.
In total, federal prosecutors say Frances illegally obtained more than $150,000 worth of property, some of which Torresen said Wednesday still hasn't been returned.
"I'm standing here before you at the lowest point I could ever imagine," Frances said in court, wearing a tan jumpsuit from the Strafford County Department of Corrections in New Hampshire, sniffling at times. "I'm here to say I'm sorry. I'm here to express remorse for my actions."
Up until September, Torresen had allowed Frances to await sentencing from home - but shortly before he was scheduled to be sentenced last fall, investigators discovered Frances and a third-party contractor had submitted several fraudulent letters to the court in the names of his friends and family, misrepresenting his history and credentials to advocate for a lesser sentence.
"The audacity of submitting these letters is next level," said Torresen, adding it was simply another scheme to defraud an institution.
"I went into complete panic mode as sentencing approached," Frances told Torresen. "I read those draft letters over and over at night, thinking, 'oh my god, I need to do anything and everything ... so I can be present for my boys."
Under the new plea, the U.S. Attorney's Office agreed not to prosecute Frances for the letters.
His defense attorney, David Bobrow, argued Frances should not serve prison time, saying the time Frances has already spent behind bars was enough of a punishment and requested three years of supervised release. Bobrow noted Frances' work history, personal health issues and a lack of any prior criminal history.
Friends and family who spoke in Frances' favor pleaded for leniency.
"Josh is ashamed and remorseful," his father David Frances told Torresen. "His punishment has been shocking and severe. He really believed that he was an official part of DHS. I really believe that is the crux of the actions that he took that have created this situation."
Frances' supporters described a dedication to serving others that began when he was a child and a passion for law enforcement and public safety. His mother told the court that Frances was the kind of kid who returned lost pets to his neighbors and shoveled their driveways. His childhood friend said Frances had always been a voice of reason in high school, breaking up fights and offering to be the designated driver.
They referenced volunteer and emergency response work Frances did across the country, including emergency work following Hurricane Katrina.
"Josh has been there for me for every single time I've needed him," said Frances' mother, Elaine Cory. "He's been my safe person. My pal for eternity. He's been my main person in my life. I don't know what I'd do without him."
But before announcing his sentence, Torresen said she doesn't believe his supporters understand the full extent of his fraud - not only did Frances embezzle thousands from his employer and trick federal defense officials into selling him excess property, but his actions while overseeing Maine Task Force Once "sullied the representation of that entity" and broke their connection with Maine Medical Center.
"I do see a danger to the community - your lies were repetitive and protractive, nothing seemed to deter you," said Torresen. "I certainly hope you have no plans of engaging in any other fraudulent scheme upon your release."