(Reuters) — A former chief operating officer of marketing communications firm Weber Shandwick pleaded guilty on Wednesday to wire fraud after being accused of embezzling more than $16 million from the PR firm and ultimately its parent Interpublic Group of Cos.
Frank Okunak, 56, who had worked at Weber Shandwick for a quarter-century, entered his guilty plea to charges of fraud and falsifying records at a hearing before U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel in Manhattan.
The residents of Lyndhurst, New Jersey, also agreed to forfeit $10.8 million and pay $16 million in restitution.
Okunak’s sentencing was scheduled for Dec. 6, and the US Securities and Exchange Commission brought related civil charges.
Prosecutors said that from 2011 to about July 2020, Okunak arranged unauthorized payments to provide seed capital for his own personal and business ventures, buy tickets and luxury boxes to sporting events and cover donations to his alma mater.
Okunak allegedly concealed his conduct by arranging false and misleading invoices to suggest the payments were being used for legitimate business purposes.
“Mr. Okunak has accepted full responsibility for his conduct, deeply regrets his wrongdoing and is doing everything he can to move forward in a positive manner,” his attorney Paul Krieger said in a statement.