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Marketing agency owner to pay $2.4M in restitution for kickback scheme

By: Ali Teske//June 20, 2022//

Marketing agency owner to pay $2.4M in restitution for kickback scheme

By: Ali Teske//June 20, 2022//

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An Illinois man has been sentenced to one year in federal prison followed by six months of home confinement and 36 months of supervised release in addition to paying $2,458,275 in restitution to Mercyhealth for wire fraud.

Ryan Weckerly of Sycamore, Illinois, was sentenced Friday by Judge William Conley of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. Between 2015 and 2020, Weckerly and co-defendant Barbara Bortner engaged in a kickback scheme involving Mercyhealth in Janesville, Wisconsin. Weckerly owned two marketing agencies Morningstar Media Group and Morningstar Interactive. Bortner was the vice president of marketing and public relations for Mercyhealth. According to the investigation, Weckerly submitted inflated invoices to Bortner for approval of his marketing work for Mercyhealth. Once the invoices were approved, Weckerly would receive payment and provide money to Bortner using cash or checks. In return for the cash or check payments, Bortner agreed to use Morningstar Media Group as the primary marketing agency for Mercyhealth, creating a fictitious company named WeInspire, LLC to disguise the payments.

Over the course of the scheme, Weckerly wrote over 103 checks to WeInspire, LLC with a cumulative total of $2,051, 975 and provided Bortner with over $1 million in cash kickback payments.

The charges against Weckerly and Bortner came after an investigation conducted by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation following an audit of Bortner’s tax returns in May 2019. Their prosecution was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron Wegner.

While Weckerly’s sentence was handed down on Friday, Bortner was sentenced to three and a half years in prison on May 2 but Judge Conley. Bortner was included in Friday’s restitution order.

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