Eye-surgery chain co-founder convicted of plotting to kill business partner

SEATTLE — A laser eye surgeon in the United States has been convicted of plotting to kill a business colleague with Canadian roots.

SEATTLE — A laser eye surgeon in the United States has been convicted of plotting to kill a business colleague with Canadian roots.

Dr. Michael Mockovak of Clearly Lasik eye centres was found guilty Thursday of four counts, including attempted murder. The King County Superior Court jury deliberated for less than two days.

Prosecutors said Mockovak was willing to pay more than $100,000 to have business partner Dr. Joseph King killed, and that he solicited an employee to hire an assassin. The jury acquitted Mockovak of trying to have the company’s former president also killed.

Mockovak’s lawyers claimed the employee goaded him into the plot after Mockovak raised the idea as a joke.

King was trained in British Columbia and practises at chain’s the Canadian clinics, while the company’s former president Brad Klock is a former hockey player from Port Alberni, B.C., who sued the company after he was dismissed as president.

Mockovak, 51, will be sentenced in March.

Clearly Lasik has laser surgery clinics in Washington, Oregon, Alberta and British Columbia. The company reported earnings of $17 million in 2007, but that figure dipped to $10 million in 2008.

U.S. court documents indicated an investigation began in April last year after an employee of Clearly Lasik contacted a family friend working for the FBI’s Portland office. The documents allege the man told investigators that Mockovak had asked him in early 2008 if he had any contacts in the “Russian Mafia” who could arrange to have Klock killed.

The man began acting as an informant for the FBI. He recorded video and audiotapes of conversations he had with Mockovak, according to the documents. They also alleged that Mockovak later shifted his focus to King. The two had married sisters and lived within blocks of each other in Newcastle, Wa., but allegedly had a falling out after Mockovak divorced his wife.

The doctors were in the process of splitting the business and Mockovak believed King was taking advantage of him, said the court papers. The documents also suggested Mockovak believed he would be a beneficiary of a multimillion-dollar life insurance policy King had.

The informant was given $10,000 in cash and a large colour photograph of King and his family, according to the documents.

King finished medical school at the University of British Columbia in 1992 and completed internships in Victoria before moving to Cleveland, Ohio, for further training, according to his biography on the Clearly Lasik website. He is based in Seattle, but has dual Canadian and American citizenship and routinely flies to Edmonton, Vancouver and Victoria to perform eye procedures.

Mockovak did not practise at the Canadian clinics.