Fired Mercyhealth exec sentenced for wire fraud, tax evasion

A former vice president of Janesville, Wis.-based Mercyhealth was sentenced to 3 ½ years in prison May 4 for wire fraud and tax evasion in relation to a $3.1 million kickback scheme, according to the U.S Justice Department.

Barbara Bortner, 57, Mercyhealth's former vice president of marketing and public relations, pleaded guilty to the scheme in October 2021. 

Ms. Bortner was charged in September 2021. She admitted getting kickbacks from Ryan Weckerly, owner of a marketing agency hired by the health system, from 2015 to 2020.

Prosecutors said Ms. Bortner and Mr. Weckerly created a scheme in which Mr. Weckerly's marketing agency, Morningstar Media Group, inflated invoices sent to Ms. Bortner for marketing work he did for Mercyhealth. In exchange, Ms. Bortner receive kickbacks from the funds received.

Prosecutors also said Ms. Bortner agreed to maintain Morningstar Media as its primary marketing group in exchange for the kickbacks.

Mr. Weckerly pleaded guilty in November 2021 and will be sentenced May 17.

Mercyhealth fired Ms. Bortner in August 2021, weeks before the charges were filed against her. Mercyhealth said the fraud didn't affect patient care.

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