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May 4, 2017

The Law Finally Catches Up With Tate Publishing & Enterprises


This post has been updated.

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Today, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter filed eight felony charges and one misdemeanor charge against Ryan and Richard Tate, respectively CEO and founder of vanity publisher Tate Publishing & Enterprises, for alleged fraudulent business practices.

According to local news station KFOR,
The charges include four felony counts of embezzlement, one felony count of attempted extortion by threat, two felony counts of extortion by threat, one felony count of racketeering and one misdemeanor count of embezzlement.

Since the businesses ceased operations in January, the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit has received 718 complaints from authors or musicians who contracted with the companies.

Complaints from customers range from failure to deliver products and services that had been previously paid for; failure to pay royalty earnings, per contractual agreement; and refusal to return files unless the customer agreed to pay a $50 processing fee.

“The means by which Ryan and Richard Tate conducted business to defraud individuals from across the country is unconscionable and a blatant disregard for those who entrusted them to produce their work,” Attorney General Mike Hunter said. “I appreciate the dedication and hard work by the agents and the attorneys in the Consumer Protection Unit, who put this case together.”
Among other findings, investigators discovered that money received from authors was routed, via Tate's business accounts, directly to the personal accounts of Ryan and Richard Tate.

The Tates have been apprehended, with bond set at $100,000 each, and ordered to surrender their passports.

There's more coverage at the Journal Record.

This is good news. Tate is one of the most unscrupulous vanity publishers Writer Beware has ever tracked, and its callous disregard for authors, staff, and creditors was on full display long before it closed its doors last January, amid mountains of debt, hundreds of author complaints, and multiple seven-figure lawsuits. Just days before the Tates' apprehension, Tate Publishing had unexpectedly risen from the dead, claiming to be ready to "once again lead the publishing industry."

For a detailed account of Tate's deceptions, failures, sudden demise, and unexpected resurrection, see my previous blog post.

In a press conference on May 4, Attorney General Hunter promised that his office would seek reparations for Tate authors (though with the multi-million dollar judgments against Tate probably taking priority, I think it's unlikely that much, if anything, will turn out to be available). He also said that Tate Publishing's apparent re-boot, as well as the possibility that the Tates were working on starting up a new venture (possibly another publisher called Lux Creative, about which there have been rumors for some time) were factors in the timing of the arrests. Overall, it's clear that the AG is taking this very seriously.

Ryan Tate, buttonholed by reporters on his way to his arraignment, unsurprisingly declared his innocence.
“We’re looking for our day in court and fighting them and we’ll make sure the truth wins out,” he said.

When asked about the countless victims, he said, “That’s not true, we went out of business for about three months but we have about a thousand authors total so most of them are very, very happy."
Worth noting: in a January interview, Richard Tate was claiming 39,000 authors. I'm guessing that was a teeny bit inflated, but I'd also bet dollars to donuts that Ryan is lowballing. Even if he isn't...we know that 718 Tate authors have complained to the Attorney General since the beginning of this year. So if Tate does have only 1,000 authors, clearly most of them are nowhere close to happy.

The Tates are out on bail at present, and a preliminary hearing is set for September 6. They apparently now have an attorney (two previous attorneys quit for lack of payment).

What can Tate authors do now? You've already done a lot; your complaints to the Attorney General were instrumental in leading to Ryan's and Richard's arrests. The AG has heard from authors not just in the USA, but from all over the world.

But there's still more to be done. The AG is still looking for Tate victims. If you haven't yet filed a complaint, consider doing so now--more complainants will give the AG's office more to work with in building its case against the Tates, and you'll also get your name on the list for restitution, if there is any.

Here's the form to fill out to file your complaint with the AG's Consumer Protection Division. You can also visit the Attorney General's website at https://ok.gov/oag/.

And if you hear any news, please email me or post it here.

UPDATE 8/31/17: The preliminary hearing for Ryan and Richard Tate has been pushed back to November 27. Officials need additional time to investigate author and musician complaints, which right now stand at 1,674.

If you're a Tate author or musician and haven't yet filed a complaint with the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office, you can still do so.

Lightning Source has reportedly stopped pursuing collection of the nearly $2 million Tate owes it, but Xerox is continuing its efforts to recover a similar amount.

UPDATE 11/27/17: The preliminary hearing has been pushed back again, to allow time for "investigation, discovery and negotiations." The new date is February 21, 2018.

You can follow the progress of the case--motions, continuances, etc.--here.

UPDATE 2/18/18: Once again, the preliminary hearing for the Tates has been pushed back, this time to May 16. No explanation was offered for the delay.

According to the Oklahoma Attorney General's office, nearly 1,900 complaints had been filed as of the end of 2017, and they're still coming in.

A FURTHER UPDATE, 2/18/18: Will you laugh or will you cry when you learn about the new entrepreneurial endeavor, excuse me, ministry from Rita Tate, mother and wife of the two alleged felons who ran Tate Publishing into the ground and left its authors high and dry?

Through the Fire Inspirations is a collection of inspirational tchotchkes featuring Rita's own writings and craftings, such as The Cross of Nails (in regular and heavy) and the Corporate Inspirations series, (framed uplifting quotes for businesses suffering, well, setbacks; do any come to mind?)

Rita explains that it was her "recent difficult trials" that moved her to found Through the Fire.
Our family was not exempt from facing the most trying times of our lives recently. Who hasn't had to cope with challenges beyond our control when you want to shout to God, "Is this how You love us?" I have been there ... perhaps where you are today. The difficult trial hurt and wounded my spirit, but then a wonderful transformation took place in my heart as I daily sought God for comfort, hope and victory.
I'm sure the hundreds of Tate Publishing and Tate Music Group victims, whose own difficult trials cost them money, time, and dreams, will find this deeply comforting.

UPDATE 3/11/18: You really cannot make this stuff up. An Oklahoma couple is accusing Ryan Tate of conning them into buying a dud car. The car apparently broke down just a few days after purchase, and Tate was unresponsive to the couple's requests that it be repaired.
Over the phone with News 4, the LaGrange's told Ryan Tate they wanted their money back.

“Uh, no. We've been probably talking to them for two weeks about this,” Ryan Tate responded.

Finally, the LaGrange’s gave Ryan Tate one last option.

“We were promised our mechanic could do the work. You don't want my mechanic to do the work and pay for it, then we would like a replacement or our money back. One or the other, that's it,” said La Tasha.

A few hours after our interview, Ryan Tate paid the LaGrange’s back their $1,900 for the car.
UPDATE 5/17/18: The preliminary hearing for the Tates has been pushed back again, to August 29.

Additionally, five Tate-associated properties are going to auction on June 11. From The Journal Record:
The properties come out of a lawsuit filed in October by BancFirst Corp., which is seeking to pay off mortgage default balances worth nearly $700,000. BancFirst convinced the District Court of Canadian County to give the bank’s mortgage liens priority over claims by Jostens Inc., Lightning Source LLC, Xerox Corp., Stanley Perl, Tom Blundell, Darla Mae Dudley, Magnolia Trace Property Owners Association Inc. and the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.
The properties reportedly have been appraised for $1.12 million.

Consumer complaints lodged with the Oklahoma Attorney General now number more than 2,000.

UPDATE 7/20/18: According to the Journal Record, the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office is working to return Tate authors' and musicians' text and music files, but having problems doing so.
The comments are all too familiar to Julie Bays, chief assistant attorney general to Mike Hunter. More than 2,000 consumers registered complaints about Tate with her office and led to charges being filed against the father-and-son executives in May 2017. Bays and her staff are struggling now to return 1,400 music and text files to 1,100 authors and musicians around the world. It is easily the largest consumer complaint case she has ever had to manage....

The scale of the alleged crimes and limits of technology have slowed down the process, however. Bays said the attorney general’s office was not equipped to upload and sort through hundreds of thousands of book pages, so the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services was contracted to help. She praised OMES for sharing its technology, although the problems seem to keep mounting – for example, not all complainants provided a way to contact them, and some used pen names rather than their legal names.

Many of the files are corrupt or empty, Bays said.
Apparently there's a release of rights letter provided by Ryan Tate that's being sent out with files that are returned.

Tate authors are being encouraged to send their questions via email to Susan.Laib@OAG.OK.Gov rather than call on the phone.

UPDATE 9/27/18: The Tates' preliminary hearing has been pushed back yet again. The new date is November 7, 2018. You can follow the progress of the case--motions, schedules, etc--on the Oklahoma Courts website: Richard Tate and Ryan Tate.
 
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