MADISON, WIS. – Timothy M. O’Shea, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced that Barbara Bortner, 57, Milton, Wisconsin, and Ryan Weckerly, 46, Sycamore, Illinois, were charged today with wire fraud. In addition, Bortner was charged with tax evasion and Weckerly was charged with aiding and abetting in the preparation of a false income tax return.
Bortner and Weckerly were charged by an information filed in U.S. District Court today, waiving their right to indictment by a grand jury. Bortner and Weckerly have both agreed to plead guilty to the wire fraud and tax charges. Their plea hearings have not been scheduled.
The wire fraud and tax charges stem from Bortner and Weckerly’s involvement in a kickback scheme while she was the Vice President of Marketing at Mercyhealth based in Janesville, Wisconsin. Weckerly was the owner of Morningstar Media Group, a marketing agency based in Sycamore, Illinois. Beginning in February of 2015, Bortner and Weckerly devised a plan whereby he would submit inflated invoices to Bortner for his marketing work for Mercyhealth. Bortner and Weckerly agreed that he would provide monetary kickbacks to Bortner for the funds he received from the inflated invoices. In return, Bortner agreed she would continue to use Morningstar Media Group as the primary marketing agency for Mercyhealth. The kickback scheme continued until June of 2020 and involved over $3,000,000.
The tax charge against Bortner involves her failure to report the proceeds of the kickback scheme as gross income on her federal tax return for calendar year 2018. Weckerly’s aiding and abetting charge stems from Weckerly providing Bortner with a false Form 1099 for calendar year 2019 that underreported her compensation from Weckerly by excluding the amount of money received in the kickback scheme.
The charges against Bortner and Weckerly were a result of an investigation conducted by IRS Criminal Investigation. The prosecution of the case has been handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron Wegner.