As Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter's investigation into Mustang-based publishers Richard and Ryan Tate continues, the family now faces a new lawsuit from a late author's daughter.
To date, more than 1,500 authors and musicians have filed complaints against Tate Publishing through the attorney general's Consumer Protection Unit. While this new lawsuit is a separate case, the plaintiff may have to wait in line to seek payment.
The stories are all similar. Authors and musicians from around the world signed over their work to Tate Publishing, expecting printing services and a portion of royalties in return. The late Valerie Arnold signed a contract for her book "God's DNA Revealed" in 2008, and she was supposed to receive 15% of sales.
“She was getting royalty checks, and they amounted to like $1. Some of them were like 35-cents. They were pennies,” says Arnold’s daughter Kerri Huffman-Lancaster.
Huffman-Lancaster took over her mother's estate after her death in 2013. She says the company stopped responding after she requested future checks be issued to her instead of her mother.
“I told them that they had sent some checks in her name and they said send them back and we’ll reissue them in your name,” Huffman-Lancaster says.
In the lawsuit, Huffman-Lancaster claims there are at least $52,000 in unfulfilled book orders, but admits the Tates never provided her a copy of the sale records, despite multiple requests.
She says a representative told her, “They would be looking at her file, and once they got her file together then they would do that. Well, I never got nothing.”
Richard and Ryan Tate are currently awaiting trial on nine charges, which include embezzlement, extortion and racketeering.
Huffman-Lancaster is seeking $428,000 in her lawsuit, but more than anything, she says she wants justice for the authors.
“It’s not really about the money,” she says. “It’s about the principle. It’s about what they did. Authors entrusted this company. They poured their lives into these books. I know my mother did.”
The Tates have not responded to News 9’s request for a comment.
Richard and Ryan Tate are scheduled to appear in court for the state's case against them on the morning of Sept. 6.