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Former W.Va. publisher faces fraud charges

March 21, 1999|By MARLO BARNHART

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - One of the publishers of The Paper, a short-lived weekly newspaper launched last fall in Berkeley County, was charged Friday with six counts of felony fraud.

Judith Carlberg was being held Saturday at the Eastern Regional Jail in lieu of $60,000 bond, according to jail officials.

She was charged with six counts of obtaining services and labor by false pretenses, according to West Virginia State Police Trooper J.L. Phillips, who took Carlberg into custody Friday.

Each count carries a possible prison sentence of one to 10 years and a fine of $2,500, Phillips said.

The trooper explained that not paying employees becomes a criminal offense when there is fraud involved.

"If one doesn't have the capability to pay to begin with, then those claims were made under false pretenses," Phillips said.

Troubles began almost immediately after The Paper published its first edition on Sept. 15.

Indeed, one edition of The Paper was halted in October when a competing daily newspaper claimed a story in the weekly may have had ties to its operation.

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The Journal sent The Paper a fax, saying it appeared that the facts gathered by a Paper reporter for a story about to be published in the weekly were gathered while she was working for The Journal, according to Charles B. Howard, an attorney representing The Paper.

Then, workers at The Paper filed a civil lawsuit last November against Carlberg and her founding partner, Judith Edens, complaining they had not been paid.

Peter A. Denzer, a reporter for The Paper, and Georgia DuBose, a features editor for the newspaper, filed the suit against Carlberg and Edens Nov. 2 in Berkeley County Circuit Court.

Denzer and DuBose also filed the suit on behalf of other employees of The Paper who had not been paid, according to the suit.

The workers who filed the suit were informed in the summer that Carlberg and Edens were planning to start a newspaper that would be circulated in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, the suit said.

Denzer and DuBose said they were informed that Carlberg and Edens had formed a corporation by the name of Carlberg/Edens Publishing Co. Inc., the suit said. But there is no corporation by that name that is incorporated under the laws of the state of West Virginia, the suit alleged.

Carlberg told Denzer and DuBose that their money for wages "was supposed to have been wired from bank accounts in the Midwest to One Valley Bank, and that there had been a mistake," the suit contended.

Carlberg also told workers that the money for wages "was being held up and delayed by IRS auditors who had undertaken audits because of the large sums that were being transferred," according to allegations contained in the suit.

Denzer, DuBose and other workers at The Paper are demanding their unpaid wages and compensatory damages for annoyance, inconvenience and embarrassment they have suffered, the suit said.

The suit didn't say how many people are represented in the action.

The Paper operated from an office in the Berkeley Plaza along U.S. 11 north.

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