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Deputy prosecutor's ex-husband pleads guilty to theft

10 felony charges allege nearly $600,000 embezzled from clinic

July 23, 1999

John Gillie; The News Tribune

Local/State

Francis Corey-Boulet, former husband of prominent Pierce County deputy prosecutor Barbara Corey-Boulet, has pleaded guilty to 10 felony charges in connection with the theft of nearly $600,000 from a Tacoma medical clinic.

Francis Corey-Boulet will be sentenced Aug. 27 in King County Superior Court on one first-degree and nine second-degree theft charges. He could face up to four years and nine months in prison.

However, under the terms of a plea bargain, deputy prosecutor Scott Peterson will recommend the low end of the sentencing range, three years and seven months, to Judge Ronald Kessler.

Defense attorney William Michelman said he will ask Kessler to impose a lesser sentence, zero to 90 days in jail, because his client is a first-time offender.

Michelman said his client pleaded guilty to the reduced number of theft charges - the original charging documents listed 85 - because he used an "inappropriate means" to pursue a grievance he had with the doctors who founded the clinic, Pacific Sports Medicine Inc.

Corey-Boulet is a former manager of a company that provided administrative services to the clinic.

Prosecutors alleged he wrote 371 unauthorized checks totaling $598,580 on the account of the clinic and its management company. In a reply to a civil lawsuit the clinic brought against Corey-Boulet, he contended he took only money to which he was entitled.

The clinic owners believe Corey-Boulet is getting off too lightly, said Robin Popich, spokeswoman for the clinic.

"We are relieved that he decided to admit to the embezzlement and plead guilty," said Popich, wife of one of the clinic's founding physicians, Dr. Gregory Popich, and a member of the clinic's management team.

"But (we are) frustrated that in our justice system, white-collar crime basically gets a slap on the wrist."

She said Francis Corey-Boulet's assertion that he was denied his just share of the clinic's profits was absurd.

"He was paid very handsomely for what he did," she said.

The former clinic manager and his wife divorced in April in Franklin County Superior Court in the Tri-Cities area. Pierce County Prosecutor John Ladenburg referred the criminal investigation to King County because of conflicts of interest.

Barbara Corey-Boulet headed the prosecutor's special assault unit for eight years. She now heads the prosecutor's appeals unit and has been lead prosecutor in numerous high-profile murder cases.

She was on vacation Thursday and unavailable for comment. She has said she had no involvement in her ex-husband's actions that led to the theft charges.

According to the plea agreement, Francis Corey-Boulet will be liable for restitution for money stolen from the clinic. Michelman said the amount will be determined at a hearing after the sentencing.

Prosecutors might seek up to the full amount, some $598,000, detailed in the original court papers, spokesman Dan Donohoe said.

Charges filed June 21 concerned 85 checks written since June 20, 1996. A three-year statute of limitations barred charges concerning checks written before that date. Prosecutors alleged Francis Corey-Boulet wrote the 371 unauthorized checks between April 1990 and March 1998.

Court documents state the clinic's doctors discovered Corey-Boulet had written unauthorized checks after the clinic began bouncing checks. He had written them for cash, endorsed them and deposited them to his personal bank account, court records claim.

When the two doctors confronted him May 2, 1998, Corey-Boulet said he had used the cash to buy cashier's checks to replace bounced checks.

When the doctors noted he had endorsed the checks and put his bank account number on the back, Francis Corey-Boulet changed his story, prosecutors contend.

The doctors fired Corey-Boulet and filed a civil suit in Pierce County Superior Court against him and Barbara Corey-Boulet. That suit is set for trial in September.

Barbara Corey-Boulet earlier this year filed for bankruptcy in federal court. She is is seeking to erase any potential financial liability from the civil suit or from the federal government, which might seek back-tax payments for unreported income.

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* Staff writer John Gillie covers courts in Pierce County. Reach him at 253-597-8663 or john.gillie@mail.tribnet.com.

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