DAYTON — Prosecutors say Dayton restaurant owner Eva Christian faces deportation following her release from the nine-year prison sentence handed down Wednesday by Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Barbara P. Gorman.
Christian has owned and operated Boulevard Haus (formerly Cafe Boulevard) in Dayton’s Oregon District for 15 years.
In court Wednesday morning, she made two emotional pleas to Gorman: first for leniency and a sentence of probation; and second, for an appeals bond that would allow her to remain free while her convictions are appealed.
The judge rejected both, calling Christian “a dangerous person” and told the restaurant owner, “I don’t think you have a conscience.”
When Christian told the judge “Please, I am not a flight risk, I will not leave,” the judge responded, “I don’t think you know the difference between the truth and a lie. So I do believe you are a flight risk.”
Prosecutors had said Christian faced a maximum of 17 years in prison after a jury convicted her May 22 on five felony counts — including a first-degree felony count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity — related to two incidents of insurance fraud.
The case revolved around break-ins and a fire during 2009 that Christian reported and which prosecutors said were staged in order to collect insurance money: one break-in at her Washington Twp. home and a reported vandalism and fire at her now-defunct Cena Brazilian Steakhouse in Miami Twp. near the Dayton Mall. Testimony during the two-week trial included a prosecution witness who testified that Christian wanted to “blow up” Cena, which was adjacent to a family-portrait studio and men’s clothing store near the Dayton Mall in Miami Twp.
“These offenses may sound non violent, but your plan could have hurt a lot of people,” Gorman said. “You conspired with someone to blow up your unsuccessful restaurant.”
The judge made no mention of deportation during sentencing, but Assistant Montgomery County Prosecutor Mary Montgomery said under current immigration rules, “When she’s released, she’ll be deported.” Christian was born in Croatia and raised in Germany, and has German citizenship. She is considered a “permanent resident” of the U.S. after marrying an American citizen, but conviction of the first-degree felony count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity leads to automatic deportation for non citizens, Montgomery said.
The restaurant owner also was convicted of four lower-level felonies — two counts of insurance fraud and two counts of making false alarms — in connection with the reported break-ins and subsequent restaurant fire. Gorman said Christian will be required by law to sell her Washington Twp. home to help pay restitution to the two insurance companies she defrauded, and to help pay for the investigations that led to her conviction.
The impact of Wednesday’s sentencing on the Boulevard Haus remains unclear, although Donald Stamper, an employee who answered the restaurant’s phone during lunch service Wednesday, said the restaurant is operating as usual. “We’re definitely going to stay open,” Stamper said. “Our entire staff has pulled together as a team.”
Christian said in her plea for leniency that Boulevard Haus employees depend on her for their livelihood, and said her adult son “needs me.” She remained defiant about the jury’s decision to convict her, saying she “cannot confess to a crime I have not committed.” During the trial, she testified and denied wrongdoing.
But prosecutors presented 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 stage both break-ins.