PLYMOUTH, Minn. (KMSP) - FBI and IRS agents raided the Plymouth, Minn. home of former Starkey Hearing president Jerry Ruzicka on Wednesday. What exactly they were looking for won’t be confirmed until federal investigators decide if and when to file an indictment, but it all comes as Ruzicka and one of his former colleagues are suing Starkey over their firings.
The raid comes nearly 2 months after Ruzicka and members of the Starkey Hearing executive team were suddenly let go. Because Starkey is a private company, there was little explanation until a civil lawsuit was filed in October suggesting that Starkey founder and CEO Bill Austin believed the executives were plotting to form a rival company.
Wednesday, federal agents left Ruzicka’s home with boxes of evidence, and investigators even drove away in a Jaguar parked inside the family’s garage. After federal agents left the Ruzicka home, criminal defense attorney John Conard delivered a statement, suggesting the raid may have been in response to his client’s own pending lawsuit against Austin.
“We reached out to the U.S. Attorney’s Office weeks ago, offered to clear up misconceptions created by Bill Austin,” Conard said. “As most of you know, there’s a civil lawsuit pending because Bill Austin owed Mr. Ruzicka well into the 8 figures in unpaid compensation, and I suspect it seemed to him easier to make these wild accusations than to simply pay Mr. Ruzicka the money he was owed. We have plans to make further communications with the U.S. Attorney and, frankly, we are happy that the FBI is digging into the facts of this matter and that’s all we have to say.”
Conard believes the feds were looking for evidence of fraud.
Ruzicka’s civil attorney said he is aware of Wednesday’s search and that they are proceeding with the civil lawsuit for wrongful termination.
Starkey Hearing Technologies statement
“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.
Starkey was started in the basement of founder Bill Austin’s home in 1967, and has grown to employ approximately 1,600 people in Minnesota and 4,800 worldwide. The government’s investigation has no impact on the company’s ongoing business. As a world leader in delivering advanced hearing solutions, Starkey remains committed to its employees, its customers and to global hearing health and innovation. Starkey has long been guided by the motto, “Better today than yesterday. Better tomorrow than today.” This motto has never been more true. Starkey’s future is bright.
Additionally, we want to be clear that Starkey Hearing Foundation, the separate non-profit charitable organization, is not alleged to have been victimized, has not been asked to assist with any investigation and its mission has not in any way been compromised. Starkey Hearing Foundation travels the globe on mission trips to give the priceless gift of hearing to those less fortunate. The Starkey Hearing Foundation has provided and fitted free hearing aids for millions of people.”