A second former Buffalo News circulation official pleaded guilty Friday to helping run an illegal slush fund that drained revenues from the newspaper.
Charles J. Fix, 37, who worked at The News for 19 years and briefly served as manager of single-copy sales from stores and coin-operated honor boxes, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of second-degree falsifying of business records.
Fix, a former Springville resident who now lives and works in Richmond, Va., told State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia that while he had the manager's job from August 1996 through last May, he inflated the number of papers returned to the company to hide the thefts.
Fix, who was suspended from his News job last May and fired in December, told the judge that on a weekly basis he would "put in figures that were incorrect" in department records to cover the thefts.
Fix told the judge he and other circulation department officials, including former News vice president David W. Perona, who pleaded guilty Feb. 5 to felony grand larceny, used money from two News honor boxes "as a slush fund" to buy "tickets and other things" for the conspirators. He said he falsified reports on returned papers "to cover the losses."
Fix admitted he routinely indicated falsely that more papers had been returned than actually was the case so the company would not be aware of the revenue it was losing.
In return for being spared jail, Fix agreed to testify as a prosecution witness at the upcoming jury trial of former News driver Thomas A. Moriarity and agreed to help The News and prosecutors in the continuing probe of possible illegal conduct by other current and former employees.
During Friday's plea proceeding, prosecutor John C. Doscher told the judge that John Casey, another former News single-sales manger who recently was fired by the newspaper, is a subject of the continuing probe but hasn't been charged with any criminal offenses.
Doscher and Lawrence J. Vilardo, a News lawyer, told the judge that Fix will be questioned further under oath to determine whether Casey or other current and former News employees took part in the illegal "slush funds."
Allowing Fix to remain free without posting bail and telling him he will be spared a jail term and fine, Buscaglia tentatively set sentencing for June 5. Both Fix and his attorney, Mark S. Carney, declined to comment.
Buscaglia warned Fix that if he does not cooperate in the continuing investigation, he could forget about a probationary sentence and face up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Prosecutor Doscher told the judge Fix already has given one sworn affidavit to investigators.