By Mark Fisher, Staff Writer Updated 6:14 AM Wednesday, May 23, 2012
DAYTON — A local restaurant owner convicted Tuesday of insurance fraud faces up to 17 years in prison for a scheme prosecutors say put people and businesses at risk.
A Montgomery County jury Tuesday convicted local restaurant owner Eva Christian on all five counts she faced related to two incidents of insurance fraud.
Common Pleas Judge Barbara P. Gorman revoked Christian’s bond and ordered her jailed immediately. Sentencing is set for June 6 and prosecutors said Christian faces a maximum of 17 years in prison, but could also receive probation.
“We will be asking for the maximum sentence,” said Mary Montgomery, assistant Montgomery County prosecutor.
Christian “committed a series of very serious crimes that put a large number of people in danger and at risk of being harmed,” Montgomery said.
Testimony during the two-week trial included a witness who said Christian wanted to “blow up” the restaurant she owned adjacent to a family-portrait studio and men’s clothing store near the Dayton Mall.
Christian, 44, showed little emotion as the verdicts were read. Defense attorney Bobby Joe Cox said after the verdicts that the case revolved around “two different stories, and jurors made the decision as to which story they wanted to believe.” Cox said he expects there will be an appeal.
It was not clear Tuesday what impact the verdict will have on Boulevard Haus, the restaurant that Christian owns in Dayton’s Oregon Historic District. A spokesman for the Ohio Division of Liquor Control said a felony conviction for the owner of a bar or restaurant can be a factor in a rejection of a renewal of a liquor license, but is not an automatic disqualifier.
The jury deliberated for about five hours over two days before reaching a verdict.
The case revolved around two break-ins during 2009 that Christian reported and which prosecutors said were staged in order to collect insurance money: one at her Washington Twp. home and one at her now-defunct Cena Brazilian Steakhouse in Miami Twp. by the Dayton Mall.
She was convicted of two counts of insurance fraud and two counts of making false alarms in connection with the reported break-ins; and one count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a first-degree felony.
Christian testified and denied wrongdoing. But prosecutors had testimony from police, fire and insurance company investigators and from witness Diane Jones, who testified that she and her husband were part of a scheme developed by Christian to defraud insurers in both break-ins.
“There are way too many inconsistencies — she can’t get away with rewriting history anymore,” Montgomery said of Christian during her closing argument Monday afternoon. “She’s like the little boy who cried wolf — only she was the wolf.”
Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2258 or [email protected].