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Former Weber Shandwick CFO sentenced to more than 4 years in jail for embezzlement

For a nearly ten-year-long embezzlement conspiracy, the former chief financial officer and chief operating officer of public relations firm Weber Shandwick received a sentence of more than four years in jail and was ordered to pay more than $26 million in restitution.

In connection with his embezzlement of $16 million from the company, Frank Okunak entered a plea of guilty on July 27 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to one count of wire fraud and one count of falsifying the books and records of a public corporation. His punishment was disclosed on Tuesday by the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Although the DOJ withheld the identity of the company Okunak worked for, Weber Shandwick, a division of Interpublic Group, has been named in numerous media publications.

According to the DOJ, Okunak used his officer position to receive money from Weber Shandwick between 2011 and 20 for "personal and business ventures" unconnected to the operations of the company or its corporate parents. Okunak created fictitious or deceptive invoices and other documentation to make it seem like the expenses were real business transactions.

According to the DOJ, he used the cash to support independent businesses, give to his alma mater, and purchase tickets and luxury boxes for sporting events.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) accused Okunak of breaking the Securities Exchange Act and encouraging violations of the law in a separate case.

According to the SEC's lawsuit, Okunak misappropriated funds by using false purchase orders and invoices to, among other things, provide a company he owned $2.5 million and use $90,000 of the company's funds to pay for a suite license fee at a sports complex.

Okunak consented to a director and officer bar.

According to the DOJ, Okunak was given a 52-month jail term and forced to forfeit $10.8 million and pay $16 million in restitution.

According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney, Damian Williams, "Today’s sentence should serve as a warning to executives that if they use their company’s money as if it were their own, they will face lengthy prison time."

An communication from an Interpublic Group spokeswoman read, "“We are satisfied that this matter has been resolved."



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