Marketing firm owner sentenced for scamming Mercyhealth in $3M kickback scheme

An Illinois marketing firm owner was sentenced to one year and one day in prison for his role in a $3.1 million kickback scheme involving Janesville, Wis.-based Mercyhealth.

Ryan Weckerly, 48, owned two marketing agencies, Morningstar Media Group and Morningstar Interactive, according to a June 17 U.S. Justice Department news release. 

The Justice Department said that between 2015 and 2020, Mr. Weckerly and co-defendant Barbarba Bortner were involved in a scheme in which he submitted inflated invoices for his marketing work for Mercyhealth. In return, Ms. Bortner, who was the health system's vice president of marketing and public relations, received kickbacks from the funds received. She also agreed to use Morningstar Media Group as the health system's primary marketing agency. 

To disguise the payments, Ms. Bortner created a sham company, to which Mr. Weckner wrote checks totalling more than $2 million and paid $1 million in cash.  

Ms. Bortner was sentenced in May to 3 ½ years in prison for her role. 

Mr. Weckerly and Ms. Bortner were ordered to pay more than $2.4 million in restitution to Mercyhealth, according to the news release. 

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