A federal investigation of circulation practices at several leading newspapers last year and the subpoena from the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York to Time Inc. this past July, have apparently grown out of the probe of Inflight Newspapers & Magazines. But this week, the first magazine has been caught in an undercover investigation. The publisher of Laptop
(a 106,164 total paid circulation computer magazine) and a circulation consultant have been charged. The charges include “conspiracy to generate and report false circulation,” according to court documents.
Edward D. Brown, publisher of Bedford Communication
's Laptop, was charged with alleged mail-fraud concerning an envelope containing a check, to be sent and delivered by the United States Postal Service to the undercover agent's “distribution company.” The warrant was also issued for John Jay Annis, VP, circulation, Laptop and other Bedford titles.
According to court documents, Annis and Brown agreed to pay the undercover investigator to take over distribution of Laptop to the shuttle terminals from Bedford's prior distributor (thought to be Inflight), who was going out of business and had refused to deliver the remaining 15,000 copies of the July issue.
Brown and Annis were allegedly advised that the agent's company was not in a position to actually distribute such a large volume of magazines, but it would provide them with the paperwork anyway. A check for $1,000 was allegedly sent on July 5 from Bedford Communications to the undercover agent's company. The payment was a 50 percent down payment on the $2,000 owed to the agent's company for accepting 10,000 copies.
In August 2005, Laptop terminated its membership with the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC). The magazine's last audit report showed a total circulation of 125,000, with 50,000 sponsored sales copies. The amount of sponsored sales had more than doubled within the previous year, from 21,667 to 50,000. Since 1998, a rate base has not been claimed.