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Prosecutor ready for W.Va. 'Paper' trial

August 13, 2000

Prosecutor ready for W.Va. 'Paper' trial



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Saying Judith Carlberg's motive was "gratification by illusions of grandeur," the Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney's Office is ready to go to trial Aug. 29, charging her with 18 counts of fraud.

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A newspaper was started in Martinsburg in 1998 and the employees were not paid, authorities allege in court documents.

"It's basically felony fraud, obtaining services through false pretenses," said Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely. Carlsberg, who was publisher, could receive one to 10 years in prison on each count if convicted. Carlsberg was charged in March 1999.

Repeated calls to her attorney Craig Manford and a call to Carlberg were not returned.

The criminal charges are part of an ongoing series of actions taken as a result of the startup of "The Paper," a weekly newspaper with offices in Berkeley Plaza in Martinsburg. It operated from June through November 1998.

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Earlier this year, the state Division of Labor alleged Carlberg and Judy Edens, president of Carlberg/Edens Publishing, Co., Inc. owed 47 employees about $343,500.00 in unpaid wages. Edens has challenged that finding. A court hearing will be held on that Sept. 29. Employees also have filed a civil suit.

The criminal complaint states Carlberg hired employees, entered into contracts for services, which the employees performed, then never paid them. She repeatedly told employees money was coming, at one point saying it had been delayed because of wire transfer problems, the complaint states.

She told employees she was the granddaughter of the founder of the Midwest-based Piggly Wiggly supermarket chain, according to an investigative report filed with the charging documents. She also claimed she was the daughter of a Piggly Wiggly vice president, court documents note.

An investigation by the state police determined none of that was true, according to the investigative report.

The investigative report also said she was arrested on charges related to "bad checks and theft" dating back to 1978. She was sentenced to three years in prison, put on probation for 10 years and ordered to pay restitution. Games-Neely said she never served time in prison. Her lack of previous prison time was a factor in charging her, Games-Neely said.

"She basically lied to them about the source of funds to pay them," the prosecutor said. "She envisioned herself to be somebody she had never been. She envisioned herself as being heir to the Piggly Wiggly fortune."

Based on complaints from six employees, Carlberg was originally charged with six counts. That has expanded to 18 as more employees have pressed charges.

"Most of these people suffered very substantially from Carlberg," Games-Neely said. "Some of these people lost careers. They had been at the same job for years. It was more than a financial loss. People lost integrity." They'd sold advertising, giving their word the business was legitimate, she said.

The investigative report states the newspaper left about $179,000 in unpaid bills to vendors, in addition to salaries. No businesses have pressed charges.

The prosecutor said she charged Carlberg knowing she would not be able to pay any back wages from prison. That could be a key element in sentencing, Games-Neely said.

"Is the judge going to put her in prison for this? - That's the question," she said. She added: "There's no money now. There never was any money."

Former features editor Georgia DuBose said she sees both sides of the argument, but adds it's time Carlberg faced up to what she did.

"I think it's time the lady went to jail," she said. "I would very much like to get the money I'm owed. But it's not just a financial matter. She caused a lot of people untold misery saying the check is in the mail."

DuBose also thinks Edens should be held financially responsible. Edens backed up Carlberg's claims and was president of the company on which her name appeared, she said.

Edens' attorney Dave Camilletti said Edens was as much a victim of Carlberg as any other employee, he said. She may have had the title, but not the responsibility, he said.

"Carlberg was the one with the money, everybody knew that," Camilletti said.

The state Division of Labor ruled earlier this year Edens was responsible for the debts, based on statements from employees and the legal and financial structure of the paper.

Edens is appealing the state's decision. Games-Neely said Edens was not charged criminally because the standard of proof is higher that that used by the Division of Labor.

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