Federal agents on Wednesday executed search warrants on the homes of two former executives at Starkey Hearing Technologies, the latest turn in a saga that started with mass firings of the company’s top management in September.
About a dozen members of the police and Federal Bureau of Investigation and at least one agent from the Internal Revenue Service raided the Plymouth home of Jerry Ruzicka, the company’s former president. Files, a computer and a car were among the items taken.
FBI spokesman Kyle Loven confirmed that “multiple search warrants” were executed on Wednesday, including one on the home of Scott Nelson, former chief financial officer. Loven declined to elaborate.
Starkey CEO Bill Austin and other officials at the company, known for elaborate star-studded events run by its philanthropic arm, have been tight-lipped about recent events.
The company’s attorney, Scott Neilson of Henson & Efron, said Wednesday that the investigation by the federal agents is “to determine whether Starkey Hearing Technologies has been the victim of criminal activity.”
He said the company is cooperating and that the philanthropic arm, the Starkey Hearing Foundation, “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.”
Ruzicka’s attorney, Marshall Tanick, said: “Obviously there is an investigation going on. No one has informed us of any particular wrongdoing. And there are no criminal charges being brought or made at the present time,” Tanick said. “We will have to wait and see” what the details of the investigation are.
Attorneys for several of the fired executives said the FBI investigation is not the end of the story. Ruzicka is expected to file a wrongful termination and breach of contract lawsuit against Starkey this month, Tanick said.
“We are adamant about pursuing these civil claims and were planning on doing that anyway” before the authorities showed up at Ruzicka’s house, Tanick said.
The only public account so far of what may have happened at Starkey came from Keith Guggenberger, who was fired as vice president of operations. He sued Starkey last month, claiming that the company had fired a total of six executives and two secretaries after Austin learned that Ruzicka was considering starting another company and after Ruzicka refused to promote Austin’s stepson.
Guggenberger’s lawsuit alleged that Austin had acted out of revenge against Ruzicka and his close friends within the $800 million privately held company.
Ruzicka, Guggenberger and Nelson were largely credited with driving growth at the company, which Austin founded in 1967.
On Oct. 19, Starkey officials asked the court to dismiss Guggenberger’s lawsuit, claiming that there was insufficient information to merit the claims. Guggenberger is seeking $10.9 million in lost wages and benefits from an employment contract that the lawsuit said did not expire for at least 10 years.
Besides Ruzicka and Nelson, Starkey fired Larry Miller, senior vice president for human resources, and executive assistants Julie Miller and Kim Mohlis on Sept. 9. Guggenberger was fired the next day. Each had worked at Starkey between 19 and 40 years.
The company also fired its chief medical officer, Susan Good, and Jeff Longtain, the former president of Starkey’s Oregon-based Northland Hearing Centers. Longtain’s attorney said his client plans to file suit this month against Starkey.
Staff writer Mike Hughlett contributed to this report.