PLYMOUTH, MINNESOTA — In another shocking turn of events following the abrupt firings of 4 senior executives at Starkey Hearing Technologies in September, the home of former President Jerry Ruzicka was raided today by the IRS and the FBI.
The FBI and IRS raid, which has received prominent television coverage in the Twin Cities, including reporters on the scene to record the event, occurred approximately one month after a local Minneapolis news station ran a story of the wrongful termination lawsuit filed by one of the fired executives.
The news report painted a very unflattering picture of both Bill Austin and his stepson, Brandon Sawalich. In the news segment you can watch here it mentions that Austin was known for periodic outbursts directed at employees, while Sawalich spent lavish amounts of company money on his own birthday party at the historic Mount Vernon.
According to multiple news reports, FBI and IRS investigators spent several hours removing boxes and other items from the home, including a Jaguar sedan from the garage. Ruzicka’s attorney spoke with the media shortly after the investigators left the property and said the raid was in retaliation for Ruzicka’s own pending lawsuit, expected to be filed next week.
To date, no criminal charges have been filed. Ruzicka’s attorney, John Conard, went on to say that they welcome the investigation and will cooperate fully with authorities.
Starkey subsequently issued a statement to the press:
Federal law enforcement authorities are currently conducting an investigation to determine whether Starkey Hearing Technologies has been the victim of criminal activity. As the alleged victim, Starkey recognizes and will do whatever it takes to fulfill its civic and moral duty to cooperate with law enforcement. Because the company cannot comment further at this time without potentially interfering with the ongoing federal criminal investigation, all questions should be referred to the government’s spokesperson.
The statement went on to state that the Starkey Hearing Foundation, which is a separate non-profit organization, is not part of the federal investigation and its mission to provide free hearing aids across the globe to people in need has “not in any way been compromised”.
11/5/2015 Update: Sources tell HHTM that a second home, owned by former Starkey CFO Scott Nelson, is also alleged to have been raided by federal authorities.
12/20/15 Update: The Star Tribune published a follow-up story regarding the latest developments at Starkey. The company continues to reaffirm its position that the company is not under investigation by federal officials for criminal wrongdoing, but rather is in fact the victim of a possible crime. The company still will not confirm the total number of employees terminated, but did report that 80 workers have been hired since September.
According to the report, at a hearing on December 17th relating to the lawsuit filed by Guggenberger’s attorney, the judge was asked to compel Starkey to enter into discovery anything the company or its employees told federal authorities regarding his client and other fired executives.
HHTM will continue to monitor this developing story, please stay tuned!
**title image courtesy Star Tribune