Chief Financial Officer Of Global Public Relations Firm Pleads Guilty To Fraud And Falsification Of Corporate Records

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that FRANK OKUNAK, the former chief financial officer of one of the world’s leading global public relations firms, pled guilty in connection with a decade-long scheme to embezzle over $16 million from his employer.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams stated: “ Frank Okunak, former CFO of one of the world’s leading public relations firms, admitted today to illegally embezzling over $16 million of the firm’s assets to pay for his posh lifestyle. Okunak now awaits sentencing for his decade-long fraud scheme.”

According to the allegations in the Information, statements made in court, and court filings:

For nearly a decade, FRANK OKUNAK, who was the chief financial officer and later chief operating officer of a leading global public relations firms (the “PR Firm”), embezzled over $16 million from the PR Firm and, ultimately, the shareholders of the PR Firm’s publicly traded parent corporation. OKUNAK used the embezzled funds to finance his personal lifestyle and his own private business ventures. OKUNAK concealed and facilitated his theft by preparing and causing others to prepare materially false accounting books and records, including invoices and payment records that falsely described expenditures as having been undertaken for the benefit of the PR Firm, when funds were actually used for OKUNAK’s personal benefit or for the benefit of his personal business associates.

Specifically, from 2011 through 2020, OKUNAK used his authority as an officer of the PR Firm to cause the PR Firm to make unauthorized payments for OKUNAK’s personal and business ventures unrelated to the activities of the PR Firm or its corporate parents. OKUNAK used the PR Firm’s assets to provide the start-up capital for his personal, independent business ventures, to purchase tickets and luxury boxes at sporting events, and even to cover donations to his alma mater. To hide the illicit nature of these expenditures, OKUNAK frequently prepared or caused others to prepare false or misleading invoices and other documentation to suggest, falsely, that the funds were used for legitimate corporate purposes.

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OKUNAK, 56, of Lyndhurst, New Jersey, pled guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of falsification of corporate books and records. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. As part of his guilty plea, OKUNAK agreed to forfeit $10,823,575.57 and to pay restitution of $16,043,603.71.

Mr. Williams praised the outstanding work of the FBI. Mr. Williams further thanked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the victim PR Firm and its corporate parent for their cooperation and assistance in this investigation.

The prosecution of this case is being overseen by the Office’s Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Scott Hartman and Matthew Podolsky are in charge of the case.

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