A former exec. of the agency that collects royalties for the American Federation of Musicians admitted on Jan. 17 that he stole $200,000 to buy jewelry, a trip to Cuba and expensive champagne for Fidel Castro. Enex Steele pled guilty in Manhattan‘s state Supreme Court to second-degree grand larceny, admitting that he stole money from the union fund into which recording companies pay royalties that are forwarded to recording artists.
Steele’s plea was part of a deal in which Justice Ronald A. Zweibel promised he will sentence him on March 4th to 1 1/2 to 4 1/2 years in prison. Steele also forfeited $50,000 from the sale of his condo and signed a document stating he owes the royalty fund $150,000.
Steele was arrested in July 2004. Manhattan D.A. Robert Morgenthau said then that Steele stole the money by giving himself an unauthorized raise in his annual salary from $105,000 to $150,000 in 2003, advancing himself $22,500 for sick, vacation and personal days in 2003, taking cash advances of more than $280,000 and not fully repaying them and charging the fund for $60,000 worth of lavish trips and luxury items.
Steele’s expenditures included Tiffany cuff links, Ferragamo shoes, a $2,000 cigar humidor and a $5,000 tuxedo, Morgenthau said. Steele rented Rolls-Royces and Mercedes-Benzes, flew first class to the Grammy awards show, which was not part of his job, and stayed in expensive hotels, the D.A. said.
Steele also flew to Cuba and met one of Castro’s top aides and presented him a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne to give to El Presidente, Morgenthau said. Steele’s lawyer claimed shortly after his arrest that his client’s trip to Cuba was to find musicians who might have been interested in his agency’s services. [Associated Press, 1/18/05]