CLEVELAND: Ron Watt, once one of Cleveland's top PR professionals, was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison this week for defrauding local banks out of $1.5 million.
Watt was the former head of Watt, Roop & Co., which was the third-largest firm in Cleveland when he sold it to Fleishman-Hillard in 1999.
Watt received about $30,000 in stock as part of the price for his firm. But he took advantage of his reputation as a local businessman to tell banks he had received $10 million in stock, and opened lines of credit based on that claim. He also used forged documents to support his claims, and eventually defaulted on $1.5 million in loans.
James Roop, Watt's former partner, today runs local agency Roop & Co. He said that he sold his portion of Watt, Roop to his partners in 1996 in order to start his own firm.
Roop said that he remains on good terms with Watt, but did not know why he had resorted to bank fraud.
"Good people can do dumb things, I guess is the upshot," he said.
Watt, Roop & Co.'s former clients include FedEx and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.