A former executive of the agency that collects royalties for the American Federation of Musicians pleaded guilty yesterday (Jan. 18) to charges that he stole $200,000 to buy jewelry, a trip to Cuba an

A former executive of the agency that collects royalties for the American Federation of Musicians pleaded guilty yesterday (Jan. 18) to charges that he stole $200,000 to buy jewelry, a trip to Cuba and expensive champagne for Fidel Castro.

Enex Steele, 41, pleaded 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 also forfeited $50,000 from the sale of his condo and signed a document stating he owes the royalty fund $150,000.

Steele's lawyer, Mathew Mari, said his client "did some things wrong, and that's why he pleaded guilty. He has taken responsibility for what he did."

Steele's purchases included Tiffany cuff links, Ferragamo shoes, a $2,000 cigar humidor and a $5,000 tuxedo. 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, prosecutors said.

Steele also flew to Cuba and met one of Castro's top aides and presented him with a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne to give to the Cuban president, according to investigators.

Steele was fired in August 2003.

The New York-based American Federation of Musicians is the world's largest organization representing the interests of professional musicians, according to its Web site. It negotiates agreements, protects ownership of recorded music and secures employee benefits.

Steele's sentencing is scheduled for March 4.

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