WASHINGTON — Public relations executive Richard Miller today became the second person to plead guilty to charges in the Iran- contra scandal, admitting he conspired with fired White House aide Oliver L. North and conservative fund-raiser Carl R. (Spitz) Channell to illegally use a tax-exempt foundation to raise money to arm the Nicaraguan rebels.
Channell last week pleaded guilty to a similar charge brought by independent counsel Lawrence E. Walsh and is awaiting sentencing.
Miller, 34, president of International Business Communications, admitted that he discussed with North, then a National Security Council aide, raising money to buy a piece of military equipment for the contras.
Asked by U.S. District Judge Stanley Harris who the government official was with whom he was dealing, Miller replied, "Lt. Col. Oliver North."
Evidence of Donation
Prosecutors told Harris they had evidence that Miller then obtained a donation to buy the equipment--after getting an estimate of the equipment's cost from North--from a private contributor to the foundation run by Channell.
Harris ordered Miller released on personal recognizance. Miller could be sentenced to up to five years in prison and fined $250,000 for conspiring to defraud the government of taxes on $3 million raised by Channell's National Endowment for the Preservation of Liberty.
The criminal information against Miller stated that a $1-million contribution was donated to the endowment in the fall of 1985, shortly after Miller and Channell had met with the donor.
Walsh is conducting his investigation as congressional committees hear public testimony on the sale of weapons to Iran and the contras.
The charge involved using Channell's tax-exempt foundation "for an improper purpose, namely, to solicit contributions to purchase military and other types of non-humanitarian aid for the contras," the filing said.
Money for arming the Nicaraguan contras is not a tax-deductible contribution.
Channell, in pleading guilty last week to a similar charge, agreed to cooperate with Walsh. He named Miller, a former staffer on President Reagan's 1980 campaign, and North as his co-conspirators.
The information filed against Miller said he was involved in three meetings in 1985 with Channell that paved the way for contributions of $3.1 million in stocks and cash to NEPL.
Donors Told of Purpose
Prosecutors have said the foundation told prospective donors "that the money would be used to purchase military and other non-humanitarian aid" for the contras."
Channell has said that Miller's company, IBC, handled money that NEPL raised for the contras during most of 1985 and 1986 when U.S. government aid to the rebels was banned by Congress.
During that period, IBC also held contracts with the State Department to perform public relations tasks such as facilitating trips by contra leaders to the United States.