The former bookkeeper for Niagara Frontier Publications, the Grand Island business that publishes several weekly newspapers, pleaded guilty Friday to charges he stole $75,407.19.
During a pre-indictment proceeding, Erie County Judge Thomas P. Franczyk told Jack C. Bates, 42, of Balen Road, Youngstown, he would likely be sentenced to probation or up to four years in prison. But Franczyk warned Bates his plea still carries a potential prison term of up to 15 years.
With Skip Mazenauer, publisher of the company, in the Buffalo courtroom, Bates pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny. Financial crimes prosecutor Candace K. Vogel told the judge Bates stole the funds from January 2000 until he was fired this January.
Franczyk told Bates he will be required to make full restitution and sign a confession of judgment for the full amount of his embezzlement when he is sentenced Dec. 4.
Bates was allowed to remain free without bail.
Mazenauer said the thefts caused "real problems for the business and our 17-plus employees."
The company, on Whitehaven Road on Grand Island, publishes the Island Dispatch, Lewiston Porter Sentinel, Niagara Wheatfield Tribune and Grand Island PennySaver.
Mazenauer said he turned the case over to police and the Erie County district attorney's office after audits uncovered the thefts, and he fired his longtime bookkeeper.