MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA — Starkey Hearing Technologies’ former president, Jerry Ruzicka, was found guilty on multiple counts today in the $20 million federal fraud trial. In a split decision, W. Jeff Taylor, former president of Sonion was also found guilty in 3 of 16 counts against him, while Larry Miller and Larry Hagen were found not guilty.
Ruzicka was found guilty of 8 of 25 counts brought against him. Among the counts for which Ruzicka was found guilty included: filing a false 2014 tax return, stealing a Jaguar that served as his company car while at Starkey, wire fraud and mail fraud. Jeff Taylor, meanwhile, was found guilty of one count of mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud.
When approached for comment on the verdict, Starkey provided HHTM with the following statement:
“Today’s verdict, along with two earlier guilty pleas, affirms that our company was victimized over a period of years and that millions of dollars were stolen. We’re grateful to the jury and to the U.S Attorney’s office, and to the FBI, IRS, and Postal Inspector case agents for their efforts in presenting and evaluating a very complex and convoluted web of deception. This decision closes a chapter in our history and lets us focus the entirety of our attention on our employees and the company’s future, on the customers we serve around the world and on their patients who depend on us for better hearing.”
–Jon Austin, Starkey Hearing Technologies spokesperson
Fraud Trial: Background
As HHTM readers will recall, Starkey’s longtime former president Jerry Ruzicka, chief financial officer Scott Nelson and vice president of human resources Larry Miller, were all fired in September 2015 by Starkey’s founder and CEO, Bill Austin.
Federal prosecutors alleged that, among other charges, Ruzicka “orchestrated a scheme” to steal more than $20 million from Starkey between 2006 and 2015.
Ruzicka has been accused of paying himself, Nelson and the COO of a Starkey subsidiary, Jeffrey Longtain, $15 million in restricted stock from a subsidiary company without Austin’s approval. Separately Ruzicka and two business associates, Lawrence Hagen (a former Starkey employee) and Jeffrey Taylor (the president of a hearing aid component manufacturer, Sonion) had been accused of setting up fake companies to receive consulting fees from Starkey totaling at least $600,000.
**Please see the article published by the Minneapolis Star Tribune for full details on today’s verdict.