The Jan. 10 to 16, 2016 cover of  Dayton City Paper sparked controversy.

Ex-Dayton City Paper publisher gets new trial date

***UPDATE (Feb. 6, 2019)***

The former publisher of the Dayton City Paper was booked into Montgomery County Jail this week. 

Wanda Esken was fingerprinted and “in an out” of jail quickly Monday evening, according to a Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department sergeant.

Wanda Esken was booked into the Montgomery County Jail 4:06 p.m. Feb. 6 2019, according to jail records. She was indicted on grand theft and forgery charges related to alleged crimes against the parent company of the now closed Dayton City Paper.
Photo: Montgomery County Jail

Esken, a 35-year-old Dayton resident, faces three counts of grand theft and a count of forgery related to crimes against the parent company of the now-closed Dayton City Paper weekly alternative newspaper, according to the indictment filed Aug. 16 in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court.

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Her trial had been scheduled for Feb. 25, but according to court documents filed Tuesday, Feb. 5, Esken waived her right to a speedy trial in the case assigned to Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge Timothy N. O'Connell. 

Esken’s new trial date is now July 22, according to court documents. 

Each of the three felony grand theft counts alleges that Esken took more than $7,500, but less than $150,000 from Paul Noah and his business, Dayton City Media, the parent company of the Dayton City Paper, via cash or check. 

Established in 1993 as “The Dayton Voice,” The Dayton City Paper published its final edition Sept. 11. 

Reached by phone later that month, Paul Noah, the newspaper’s owner, said Esken’s alleged crimes left him steering a ship filled with holes.

*** ORIGINAL REPORT (Sept. 25, 2019): City Paper former publisher accused of stealing thousands *** 

A former publisher has been indicted by a grand jury  on charges that she took thousands of dollars from the Dayton City Paper, which recently closed.

>> RELATED: Dayton City Paper owner: ‘It was a lot and a lot of money, and it’s gone’

Wanda Esken faces three counts of grand theft and a count of forgery, according to the indictment filed Aug. 16 in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court. 

Each of the three felony grand theft counts alleges that Esken took more than $7,500, but less than $150,000  from Paul Noah and his business, Dayton City Media, the parent company of the Dayton City Paper, via cash or check.

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Last week, Noah told employees and writers interviewed by this news organization that the newspaper had closed. 

Reached by phone, Noah said Esken’s alleged crimes left him steering a ship filled with water.

“The investigation took over four months, and in that time I realized I had two choices: 1) fold the paper because there was no money, and that option actually came up in mid to late January when we had no money, or 2) try to save the ship,” he said. “I, as captain of the ship, did not want to see the ship go down and if it was going to go down, I was going to go down with it,” he said. 

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Noah said his paper was thriving and he had plans to expand into Lexington, Ky (he owns the domain name for LexingtonCityPaper.com), before he says financial irregularities were brought to his attention in December.  

He was fighting for survival afterwards. 

“The paper was costing me after the crisis between $3,000 or $4,000 a week (of personal savings) to stay alive,” he said, adding that ‘a very high figure’ of money was discovered to be missing. 

Reached by phone, Cara Sweet, an executive assistant to Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck, declined to provide details about the amount of money involved or other details related to the charges against Esken. 

“Because this is a pending case, we cannot comment on specific facts,” Sweet said via email. 
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Christopher W. Thompson of Montgomery County Public Defender’s Office, Esken’s attorney in the case, said he could not yet comment. 

A woman who answered Esken’s cellphone Sept. 25 hung up without commenting. 

A hearing is scheduled in the case for Oct. 1. The case has been assigned to Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Timothy O’Connell.

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Noah filed a Dayton police report on Jan. 5 alleging that Wanda Esken, his employee of about five years,  “was stealing from his business, Dayton City Media LLC.” The report was taken by Dayton police Detective Jose Grieshop.

Noah told Grieshop he promoted Esken, a 36-year-old  Trotwood resident, according to court documents, to  the publisher’s position last year and “gave her complete control of the company” and its day-to-day operations. 

She had been associate publisher before the publicly announced promotion in September. 

Noah told the detective that Esken was the sole authorized person to print checks for the business, but he was the only authorized signer of these checks, according to police reports.

“Mr. Noah then began showing me several checks that he identified as fraudulent. They had been made out to  Wanda Esken for various reasons and amounts,”  Grieshop’s report says. “He stated his signature had been forged on the checks.”

According to the report, Noah said numerous vendors reported being overcharged, and in some cases, their credit cards were charged for the same purchase multiple times.

According to the report, Noah told Grieshop that the company that printed the City Paper informed him that he owed about $35,000 in back payments. 

Noah also said his office space landlord informed him that he was behind on rent four months, the police documents said. 

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The downtown Dayton building that houses the City Paper’s offices is owned by the Victoria Theatre Association. 

Esken was tasked with making payments and for controlling the credit card processing with vendors, Noah told police. 

The Dayton City Paper last published Sept. 11. 

The publication’s Facebook page, which was accessible early in the day on Sept. 19, appeared to have been taken down later that day.

On the same day, the home page of the publication’s website transitioned from a collection of featured stories from the Sept. 11 edition to an archive of past editions.

The Dayton City Paper has closed, according to multiple sources.
Photo: Mark Fisher
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