Former Suprema Specialties operations manager John Van Sickell and three customers pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud last month. The guilty pleas relate to a scam, which created millions in fictitious sales and revenue. The Securities and Exchange Commission additionally settled charges against Van Sickell and the three customers.

The pleas granted in U.S. District Court in Trenton, N.J., are the first criminal admissions since the Paterson, N.J.-based cheese company collapsed in 2001. Van Sickell faces up to three years in prison for the conspiracy, and the three customers face up to 10 years in prison for securities fraud.

The SEC also charged and settled with Suprema's former controller, Arthur Christensen; he coordinated false invoices that helped bolster the company's claim of $1.2 billion in reported revenue from 1996 through 2002 and its subsequent public stock offering. Up to 58% ($700 million) of sales were non-existent.