The husband of a woman who embezzled more than half a million dollars from a local doctor’s office conspired with his wife to take the money and is now responsible for paying it back, a jury decided Thursday.
Where all the money went remains largely a mystery, though jurors heard testimony that thousands were squandered on gambling trips and lottery tickets.
Jackie Ray conspired to "convert and appropriate" some $512,000 that his wife, Dianne Ray, stole from Gastroenterology Associates of Gainesville, where she was the longtime office manager, a Hall County Superior Court jury decided in a civil trial.
Dianne Ray, 51, is serving a four-year prison sentence after pleading guilty last year to theft by taking and theft by deception. Her husband was never charged in connection with the thefts.
Reached Thursday, District Attorney Lee Darragh said there was insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Jackie Ray conspired in the thefts. He noted that the burden of proof for civil liability is different.
Jurors in this week’s civil case found that Jackie Ray conspired with his wife by a preponderance of the evidence, not the criminal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.
Dianne Ray’s former employers filed suit against her and her husband to recover the stolen money prior to her guilty plea in criminal court. Dianne Ray also was ordered to pay restitution in the criminal case, which will count against the civil judgment.
The Ray family had some high-profile attorneys representing them this week in Judge C. Andrew Fuller’s court. Former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers represented Dianne Ray; her husband was represented by former DeKalb County District Attorney J. Tom Morgan.
Gainesville attorneys Wyc Orr and Spence Johnson represented the lead plaintiff, Dr. Steve Moore, the founder of the doctor’s office who hired Ray as one of his first employees more than 25 years ago.
Orr said the suit was filed "to see that justice be done."
"We feel like a just verdict was reached," Orr said.
The jury found that Jackie Ray fraudulently transferred 6.7 acres of undeveloped land on Jess Helton Road to his adult son around the time Dianne Ray was fired over the thefts. That transfer was voided as a result of this week’s trial, and the land, appraised at $130,000, is subject to seizure by the plaintiffs to help satisfy the judgment, Johnson said.
Attorneys for Moore have yet to determine whether the Rays have any other significant assets. During the plea hearing last December, Bowers told Judge Bonnie Chessher Oliver that the only assets Dianne Ray had remaining was a 401(k) fund with about $200,000 and a ring valued at $20,000.
Dianne Ray transferred her half of the title of her home to her husband around the time the thefts were discovered, and he subsequently mortgaged the home for a $188,000 loan. That fraudulent property transfer by Dianne Ray also was voided in this week’s civil trial.
Asked if the Rays have any other assets that could satisfy the judgment, Johnson said, "We’ll find out."