This afternoon, the jury in the trial of two former Starkey executives and two of their colleagues accused of defrauding or embezzling as much as $20 million from the company split their decision, finding Starkey former president Jerry Ruzicka and former Sonion VP of sales Jeff Taylor guilty of multiple counts of fraud, while acquitting former Starkey VP of human resources Larry Miller and MicroTech and Soundpoint founder Larry Hagen.  Sentencing will commence at a later date.

Ruzicka was found guilty of 8 out of the 25 counts against him, including tax fraud, stealing a company car, and wire and mail fraud. Taylor was found guilty of 3 out of the 16 counts against him, including mail fraud and wire fraud.

The defendants had been charged with and pleaded not guilty to transferring restricted stock, creating sham companies, and collecting over $20 million in fake invoices, bonuses, and commissions in what has been described as a complicated and sophisticated scheme. In turn, the defense said that Austin had been updated on the activities being litigated, and contended that he gave blanket approval for Ruzicka to run the company and even sign Austin’s name on documents. However, they painted a picture of Austin as angry and changing his mind once he suspected Ruzicka of starting up a “hearables” company and recruiting Starkey employees.

“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,” said company spokesperson Jon Austin (no relation to Starkey Founder Bill Austin) in an email. “We’re grateful to the jury and to the US 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.”

For more details, see the news articles below and today’s article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune by Dee DePass.

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