The former chief financial officer and chief operating officer of public relations firm Weber Shandwick was sentenced to more than four years in prison and ordered to pay more than $26 million for a nearly decade-long embezzling scheme.
Frank Okunak pleaded guilty July 27 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to one count of wire fraud and one count of falsification of the books and records of a public corporation related to his embezzlement of $16 million from the firm. The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced his sentencing Tuesday.
The DOJ did not name the firm where Okunak worked but multiple media reports identified it as Weber Shandwick, a subsidiary of Interpublic Group.
From 2011-20, Okunak used his officer role to take money from Weber Shandwick for “personal and business ventures” unrelated to the activities of the firm or its corporate parents, the DOJ said. Okunak fabricated false or misleading invoices and other documents to make it appear the expenditures were legitimate business purchases.
He used the money to buy tickets and luxury boxes at sports events, make donations to his alma mater, and fund independent businesses, the DOJ said.
In a parallel action, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged Okunak with violating the Securities Exchange Act and aiding and abetting violations of the act.
Okunak falsified purchase orders and invoices to use $90,000 of the firm’s money to pay for a suite license fee at a sports complex and to give $2.5 million to a company he owned, among other misappropriations, according to the SEC’s complaint.
Okunak agreed to an officer and director bar.
Okunak was sentenced to 52 months in prison and ordered to forfeit approximately $10.8 million and pay restitution of approximately $16 million, the DOJ said.
“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,” said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams in a press release.
“We are satisfied that this matter has been resolved,” an Interpublic Group spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
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