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Former Starkey President Pleads Not Guilty to Theft

Jerry Ruzicka and three other defendants in the case pleaded not guilty to charges that they fleeced the hearing aid manufacturer and its main owner out of $20 million over a nine-year period.

Chris Newmarker


Jerry Ruzicka
Jerry Ruzicka

A December trial date has been set in federal court in Minneapolis for four of the five men accused of stealing from hearing aid maker Starkey and its principal owner and CEO Bill Austin. 

Former Starkey president Jerry Ruzicka, the company's former human resources senior vice president Larry Miller, and two friends of Ruzicka--Jeffrey Taylor, former president of miniature parts supplier Sonion, and Lawrence Hagen--pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court on Friday. Absent was the fifth defendant in the case, former chief financial officer Scott Nelson.

Ruzicka's lawyer John Conard told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis that the case rests on the false premise Austin did not know what was going on in his own company. A Starkey spokesman described Conard's claim as absurd. 

Charges in the case range from everything from making financial transactions related to fraud proceedings to conspiring to commit money laundering, wire fraud, and mail fraud. 

The indictment claims Ruzicka and the other defendants stole from the company between 2006 and September 2015, when Ruzicka and scores of other employees at the company were fired. According to prosecutors, the alleged theft was accomplished through a number of strategies, which mostly shifted company money to sham entities. (Though, Ruzicka supposedly got creative with the sale of his company-issued Jaguar.)

Starkey operates 21 facilities and conducts business in more than 100 markets worldwide. It lists its employee numbers in the 1001 to 5000 range on LinkedIn. The 52-year-old company develops, manufactures, and distributes hearing aids through the Audibel, NuEar, MicroTech, AudioSync, and original Starkey brands.

Discover more about medical device innovation at BIOMEDevice San Jose, December 7-8, 2016.

Chris Newmarker is senior editor of Qmed. Follow him on Twitter at @newmarker.

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