MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — More drama is unfolding in the ongoing purge of top executives at Starkey Labs.

Federal agents executed a search warrant at the Plymouth home of former Starkey president Jerry Ruzicka Wednesday afternoon.

It’s a continuation of the sudden events from early September when Starkey chairman and owner Bill Austin fired eight of his top executives. Since then, a civil suit was filed claiming breach of contract and defamation by at least one of those terminated.

That case is a civil matter, but Wednesday’s raid proves authorities have opened a criminal investigation. The full nature of the probe is still under wraps.

For about two hours Wednesday, FBI and IRS agents were inside the home of former Starkey president, Jerry Ruzicka. They emerged carrying boxes of evidence, including some electronics, and then left.

Ruzicka’s attorney John Conrad says he’s happy the FBI is investigating what Ruzicka calls false accusations by Bill Austin.

“I don’t know what the precise nature of the accusation is,” Conrad said. “I don’t suspect that if it was simply a competitive issue that the U.S. Attorney would be involved. That may have motivated Bill Austin to make other accusations, but I think it’s somewhere in the nature of a fraud accusation.”

Ruzicka believed he was going to be replaced with Austin’s stepson, Brandon Sawalich, so he began making plans to create his own company that would deal more directly with distribution to hearing aid consumers.

His civil attorney, Marshal Tannick, plans to file a breach of contract and defamation suit against Austin  “very soon.” Ruzicka claims that Austin still owes him compensation under his employment agreement that would pay him well into the eight figures.

Bill Hudson


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