| Crime |

Jana Koretko Sentenced for Screwing Erotica Novelists Out of $200K

From the cover of Sleeping With the Enemy (Chosen Wars Book 5), by Jana Leigh, a pen named used by Jana Koretko.
From the cover of Sleeping With the Enemy (Chosen Wars Book 5), by Jana Leigh, a pen named used by Jana Koretko.
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Romance novels are under fire from many angles right now, with targets including the genre's alleged lack of diversity — an argument summed up by the phrase "fifty shades of white." But Jana Koretko proved to be an enemy from within. In June 2017, the Milliken resident was formally charged with screwing fifteen erotica authors at the same time, to the tune of an estimated $125,000. By the time she was sentenced for what prosecutors described as an elaborate money-laundering scheme, that total had risen to nearly $200,000.

Like many of the authors who wrote books for her business, JK Publishing, Koretko wrote under multiple pen names, including Leigh Brock, Harley McRide (vroom, vroom!) and Jana Leigh — her actual first and middle name. Here's an example of the artistry she shared under the last moniker, as drawn from a tome titled Hotshots (Wildfires Book 1):

He gathered his pack and started to head down the hill. What the men did in their spare time wasn't his business, and if he admitted the truth to himself, he was a little jealous. He wasn't inclined toward bisexuality. He'd thought about it, sure, he had even participated with them from time to time when they brought in an insatiable woman that wanted to experience a man in each hole at once. The first time he'd been called into the room by Trys, he laughed when he saw what they wanted. He'd let the woman stifle her screams on his cock, and ended up thoroughly enjoying himself.

Can you feel the heat? We can't, either — but the temperature was turned up on Koretko starting in August 2015, when the 19th Judicial District Attorney's Office was first notified about what was characterized as a royalty scheme. The complainant was Brandie Birge, a JK Publishing writer under handles such as Willow Brooke and Shae Shannon.

Jana Koretko also published under the pen name Harley McRide.
Jana Koretko also published under the pen name Harley McRide.

According to Koretko's arrest affidavit, Birge told investigators that her contract mandated that she receive 50 percent of the net royalties the firm collected from retail platforms such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and All Romance, but she and other authors had noticed discrepancies in the totals reported by JK Publishing. And their suspicions were soon confirmed.

Take the case of Gale Soukop, one of the most popular scribes in the JK Publishing stable; she earned a higher royalty rate than Birge — 60 percent — for works presented under the moniker of her alter ego, Avery Gale. Between January 1, 2014, and December 1, 2015, the affidavit states, she should have been paid $240,546.83 ($228,957.45 monthly royalties plus $13,115.78 quarterly royalties less editing costs of $1,878.50). But her total compensation topped out at $141,932.23, resulting in a loss of $98,614.60.

Investigators believed that at least fourteen writers in addition to Soukop were shorted. But the affidavit revealed that Koretko actually over-reported sales of books by some authors. Included in the affidavit is the following May 8, 2015, Facebook message exchange between Lynda R. Shook (pseudonym: Lynn St. James) and Koretko:

Koretko: I just got an updated report, over 750 on iTunes.
Shook: books
Koretko: yes
Shook: holy shit!!!
Koretko: woot!!!

Jana Koretko's booking photo.
Jana Koretko's booking photo.
19th Judicial District DA's office

Turns out, though, that iTunes only sold ten of Shook's books for the entire month of May 2015.

Was Koretko just being kind, or buttering up fledgling authors so that they'd be easier to bilk in the future? Prosecutors certainly didn't give Koretko the benefit of the doubt. She was hit with two dozen charges, including multiple counts of theft, computer crime and money laundering, as well as tax evasion: She apparently didn't file a return for two years.

In December 2019, the DA's office agreed to accept Koretko's guilty plea for a single beef: money-laundering, a Class 3 felony. Appropriately enough, her sentencing was scheduled for Valentine's Day, February 14, when Weld District Court Judge Thomas Quammen ordered her to serve two years in jail, followed by ten years of supervised probation, as well as to compensate her victims for losses just shy of $197,000.

A 19th Judicial District release shares this comment from Quammen to Koretko: "I’m going to hold your feet to the fire. Paying back this restitution is a specific condition of your probation. If you do not pay this restitution on probation, you certainly cannot pay it while in prison," where she could return if she fails to pony up.

"This was a complicated white-collar scheme that took years to unfold,” Deputy District Attorney
Andrew Rogers notes in a statement. "This was not a mistake or an accounting error; this was a serious crime. The defendant’s conduct injured innocent people not just in our community here in Colorado, but also

In other words, it's not your typical love story. Click to read Jana Koretko's arrest affidavit.

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