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Attorneys of the Year: Starkey Laboratories Fraud Trial Team

Lola Velazquez-Aguilu is a Circle of Excellence Attorney of the Year.

Lola Velazquez-Aguilu is a
Circle of Excellence
Attorney of the Year.

Collaboration was key to winning convictions in the Starkey Laboratories fraud trial, say the prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office who prevailed in one of the state’s most complex and challenging such cases.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Benjamin Langner and Surya Saxena and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Lola Velazquez-Aguilu helped the jury “cut through the complexity and distractions and get to the truth,” then U.S. Attorney Gregory Brooker said after the March 2018 verdicts.

Jurors convicted two former Starkey executives of stealing more than $15 million from the Eden Prairie-based hearing aid manufacturer. Four others pleaded guilty.

The prosecutors are good friends who worked as equals and “teammates.” They often stayed late engaging in “vigorous but positive” debate on the best way to present complicated issues.

“I don’t know how you could survive an eight-week trial without it,” Velazquez-Aguilu, who joined Medtronic as litigation and investigations counsel in October, said of the collaborative approach.

“We had to methodically unravel the last 10 or 20 years of a company’s existence,” Langner said. “We were dealing with people that had worked together for a long time, so there were a lot of hard feelings. … One of the most rewarding parts was to have gotten good results in a very difficult environment.”

Taking time for the mid-trial debates was difficult but “was probably the biggest factor from my perspective in the success of the case,” said Saxena, who tried the case with Langner and Velazquez after their investigation.

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