EL RENO, Okla. -- A father and son who ran an Oklahoma-based publishing company have agreed to pay back about $1 million to the thousands of writers and musicians they defrauded, according to the state's attorney general.
Richard Tate, who founded the now-defunct Tate Publishing Co., and his son, former CEO Ryan Tate, pleaded no contest Wednesday to embezzlement, extortion, conspiracy and racketeering charges and received suspended 20-year sentences. They also must reimburse their victims, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter's office said. A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt but is treated as one for the purposes of sentencing.
The Tates were charged after authors and musicians filed complaints about their Mustang-based company, accusing the men of failing to pay royalties on the sale of their creative works and even refusing to return manuscripts until they were paid more money. Hunter said his office received about 2,200 complaints from around the world.
Hunter launched an investigation revealing that the father and son had been transferring money from book and music publishing deals to their personal checking accounts for dining- and entertainment-related expenses.
Tate Publishing owes scammed clients at least $826,000, but prosecutors said the total is likely higher.
Prosecutor John Settle said the total only represents documented claims against the company, which were provided by about a quarter of the 2,000 former customers who filed complaints. Former clients who haven't yet filed a claim can still do so by July 1, 2019, he said.
Hunter said the plea agreement was made in the victims' best interests and that his office is setting up a restitution fund for them.
The Tates will jointly put at least $3,000 per month into the account, he said.
Though the men won't spend time behind bars unless they violate the terms of their probation, Hunter said Richard and Ryan Tate "finally have accepted responsibility for conning thousands of individuals."