Marketing agency owner sentenced to 1 year and 1 day for aid in $3 million Mercyhealth scam

Published: Jun. 17, 2022 at 4:37 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 17, 2022 at 5:48 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The marketing agency owner who partnered with a former Mercyhealth executive in a $3 million kickback scheme has received prison time for wire fraud and aiding in the preparation of a false tax return, the Department of Justice announced Friday.

Ryan Weckerly of Illinois was sentenced Friday to 12 months and one day in federal prison for his crimes. This prison sentence will be followed by 6 months of home confinement and 2-and-a-half years of supervised release, the DOJ stated.

Weckerly is the owner of two marketing agencies in Illinois - Morningstar Media Group, and Morningstar Interactive. Through Morningstar Media Group, he was able to engage in a kickback scheme with former Janesville Mercyhealth executive Barbara Bortner.

According to the government’s investigation, Weckerly and Bortner engaged in a fraudulent scheme where Weckerly would submit inflated invoices to Bortner as part of his marketing work for Mercyhealth. These invoices would then be approved by Bortner, and he would provide that extra money back to Bortner after getting the payments from Mercyhealth.

The DOJ said that in return for these payments, Bortner agreed to use Weckerly’s business, Morningstar Media Group as the primary marketing agency for Mercyhealth.

In an attempt to hide the fraud, the DOJ stated that Bortner created a fake company named WeInspire LLC. During the time of the scheme, Weckerly wrote over 103 checks to WeInspire LLC from one of his business accounts. The cumulative total of these checks was $2,051,975, according to the IRS.

Bank records obtained by the government show that Weckerly provided Bortner with over $1 million in cash payments.

At the conclusion of the sentencing hearing, the judge ordered Weckerly and Bortner to pay $2,428,275 in restitution to Mercyhealth. Bortner was sentenced to 3-and-a-half years in prison for her role on May 2.

Weckerly pleaded guilty in November 2021 to wire fraud and aiding and assisting in the filing of a false tax return.

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