Broward News

Luxury Mag in Boca Goes Belly Up; Writer Cries Foul

A New York City-based freelance writer says he was stiffed out of $1,150 by Howard Needle, publisher of the now-defunct Cravings Palm Beach, a luxury goods magazine based in Boca Raton.

Scott Rose says that he had a contract from Needle to be paid 50 cents per word and that he was asked to write three articles for the magazine -- on yachts, caviar and wine. Rose says he was paid $250, which was due upon the acceptance of his first article. While waiting for the article to be published and to receive the rest of what he was owed, Rose worked on two more articles, and in both cases he says Needle didn't pay what the contract required on the front end, nor did he pay the full amount before the deadline first stipulated in the contract and then agreed upon in emails. Rose recalls that Needle told him the editor was "holding out" and that the payments would come... eventually. "I thought, 'Well, I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt,'" says Rose, who wishes now that he had checked Needle's criminal record.

After deadlines for payment came and went, Rose still hoped to receive his outstanding balance by March 23 -- what he says was the deadline for payment on his third story. Instead, Needle sent him an email that Rose forwarded to The Juice. An unedited excerpt:

do to the economy ,i have not sold enough advertising to print this issue. I am forced to close down the magazine and will not be using your stories in any way what so ever. I will try with your permission to try and sell them to another magazine so they can pay you.

Rose rejected that offer. He doesn't think any of his articles were ever published, though because Cravings Palm Beach was a regional magazine and Rose lives in Manhattan, he can't be sure.

Needle tells a different story.

"There's no scam," says Needle. "No one's getting ripped off." He denied there was ever a contract between his magazine and Rose. (Rose faxed to The Juice a copy of a document that said "Writers' Contract" at the top. It specified the 50-cents-per-word rate. And it contained the stamped address and contact information of Cravings Palm Beach. After having been told this, Needle declined to give direct answers about the contract.)

Rather, Needle says it's a simple case of a magazine being unable to survive the turbulent economic times. He stressed that whatever their disagreement, the appropriate place for Rose to seek a remedy was in civil court. Instead he says that Rose has made slanderous claims about him in emails to newspapers and posts on the internet, like this one, that would appear on Google searches. Asked what exactly was false about those allegations, Needle said, "I have not been found guilty of securities fraud." Needle forwarded a message to The Juice that Rose had sent to Needle's former advertisers alleging securities fraud convictions.

The National Futures Association, a trade group that regulates the futures industry, filed a complaint in 1991 alleging that Needle committed fraud. The NFA filed two more complaints against Needle in 1993 and 1997. Needle settled all three cases without admitting fraud. He paid fines of $25,000 for each of the first two cases, according to records on the NFA website. But none of the three were criminal cases, and he has not been convicted of securities fraud.

Having been told this, Rose said, "I might have mis-characterized the precise nature of his criminal convictions -- but not the extent of his criminal activity."

A 2000 New Times story tells of Needle's management of a trading company called International Currency Management. Investors alleged it was a boiler-room scheme.

Needle was one among dozens of New York traders charged in 2003 for having a role in an currency fraud scheme whose FBI investigation was called "Operation Wooden Nickel." After pleading guilty in 2005 to extortion and racketeering, Needle did 30 months in a federal prison. He was also incarcerated in Florida for felony DUI. As to those cases, said Needle, "I've paid my debt to society."

Needle says he's settling his debt to Cravings Palm Beach advertisers by placing their ads in his new magazine. Asked what it will be called, Needle said, "I'm not going to give you that information."