Clearly Lasik co-founder found guilty of murder-for-hire plot

March 4, 2011

By Jennifer Sullivan

The co-founder of Clearly Lasik eye surgery centers was found guilty Feb. 3 of plotting to kill his partner.

The King County jury convicted Dr. Michael Mockovak of one count of criminal solicitation to commit first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree theft and attempted first-degree theft. Jurors found him not guilty of a second count of criminal solicitation involving the company’s former president.

The jury deliberated for less than two days.

Dr. Michael Mockovak, co-founder of Clearly Lasik eye surgery centers, is escorted out of King County Court Feb. 3, after he was found guilty of plotting to kill his partner and the company's former president. By Erika Schultz/The Seattle Times

After the verdict was read, Mockovak, who has been out on bail since shortly after his arrest in November 2009, was taken into custody and led to jail. He will face between 31 and 41 years in prison when he is sentenced March 17.

Mockovak’s former partner and target of the murder-for-hire plot, Dr. Joseph King, issued a statement: “My colleagues, my family and I are relieved to put this sad episode behind us.”

Prosecutors said Mockovak was willing to pay more than $100,000 to have King and former company President Brad Klock killed.

According to the charges, Mockovak believed King was “greedy” because of his apparent plans to split the company, and thought his partner was taking advantage of him. Mockovak was apparently angry with Klock for suing the company after he was fired, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors also claimed Clearly Lasik was in a slump.

The eye surgery centers have offices throughout the Pacific Northwest and Western Canada. The company reported earnings of $17 million in 2007, but that figure dipped to $10 million in 2008, charging papers said.

Mockovak solicited Daniel Kultin, a Clearly Lasik employee who had emigrated from Russia, to arrange the slayings, prosecutors said. Mockovak believed Kultin could put him in touch with a hit man for the Russian mafia, prosecutors alleged.

Kultin reported Mockovak’s alleged scheme to the FBI, and the agency hired him to work as a confidential informant, according to testimony during Mockovak’s trial.

Kultin was the prosecution’s key witness during the two-week trial.

The plan was for Mockovak to pay the assassin $25,000, while Kultin would earn $100,000 for arranging the slayings, according to the charges.

On Nov. 7, 2009, Mockovak met Kultin in Tukwila, where he paid him $10,000 cash and gave him a photo of King, charging papers said. Mockovak was arrested five days later.

But Mockovak’s lawyers contended that he never intended to hire an assassin, calling his efforts an “immature joke.” Defense lawyer Colette Tvedt said that Mockovak was “induced” and “persuaded” into the plan by Kultin.

Tvedt said Kultin was ambitious to work with the FBI.

In January, Mockovak was ordered to stop practicing medicine in Washington by the Medical Quality Assurance Commission and the state Department of Health. His license to practice medicine was also suspended.

After learning of the murder-for-hire plot, King and his family moved into a hotel because they were scared to return to their Newcastle home, which is only a few blocks from Mockovak’s house, court papers said.

King told investigators that the two men had been close for years and even knew the alarm codes for each other’s homes, charging papers said.

“It is incomprehensible how someone could deliberately plan to take someone’s life and completely devastate a family,” King said in a statement released shortly after Mockovak’s arrest. “My family and I were shocked and horrified to learn that a business associate was allegedly planning and ordering my murder.”

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.

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