Mustang vanity publishers Richard and Ryan Tate avoided jail Wednesday after pleading no contest to 44 counts, including charges of embezzlement, attempted extortion, conspiracy and a pattern of criminal behavior.
The father and son, who owned Tate Publishing, entered their pleas before Canadian County Special Judge Jack McCurdy.
He sentenced the pair to 20 years in prison, but suspended all 20 years. In addition, he ordered that they pay $825,895.22 in restitution, including $109,000 that was due immediately.
The Tates each pleaded no contest to 22 counts of embezzlement, 20 counts of either attempted extortion by threat or attempted extortion, one count of conspiracy and one count of pattern of criminal activity.
They were sentenced to 10 years in prison on one count each of embezzlement and the conspiracy charge. Those two sentences will run consecutively.
In addition, they were sentenced to two years for each count of attempted extortion by threat and engaging in a pattern of criminal activity, five years for each count of felony embezzlement and one year in the county jail for misdemeanor embezzlement.
The sentences all run concurrent with the 10-year sentence for embezzlement.
The restitution, which will be split among the victims, will be paid at a rate of $3,000 per month for the next 20 years. The amount the Tates owe could grow based on any additional complaints that are filed before July 1. Each is liable for the entire amount.
Officials with the state attorney general’s office, which prosecuted the case, said there are now 2,202 complaints against the Tates.
The embezzlement charges accused the company of taking money from authors for the publication of their material but failing to do so. They did not return the author’s funds.
The attempted extortion charges relate to requiring the authors to pay the company $50 for the return of their materials, otherwise, they said the material would be destroyed.
In November, the pair agreed to relinquish their rights to the material, which included books, music, videos and other items.
That allows victims to retrieve their materials and have the option of finding another publisher.
Wednesday, the Tates also agreed to turn over any computers or servers that remain in their possession.
The investigation into the company began in June 2015 after the attorney general’s consumer product unit began receiving complaints against Tate Publishing and Enterprises LLC and Tate Music Group LLC.
The complaints ranged from failure to deliver products, failure to pay royalty earnings and threats to destroy files unless the artist paid a processing fee for the return of the artists’ files.
The affidavit that was filed with the case states that a review of bank records showed that monies produced by the sale of publishing or music production services were deposited into business checking accounts and then transferred to the personal checking accounts of Ryan and Christy Tate as well as Richard and Rita Tate.
Court records also indicated that the processing fees were initially deposited into the company’s accounts, but later transferred into personal checking accounts, and were used for personal transactions including dining and entertainment at casinos.
The company closed in January 2017 after it lost court cases that had been filed by Tennessee-based Lightning Source and Xerox.
A federal judge ordered the company to pay Lightning Source more than $2 million for money paid to Tate Publishing for the distribution and printing of 5.5 million books during a five-year contract.
Xerox was awarded $1,446,070.67 by a Canadian County judge.
Later that year, the Tates sent out an email stating that it planned to restart the business.
That notice prompted the attorney general to move forward with charges against the father and son.