Former local restaurant owner Eva Christian’s state prison sentence is over, but her future remains uncertain

Former Oregon District and Dayton Mall restaurant owner Eva Christian has now completed her state prison sentence, a judge ruled Thursday, but her future remains uncertain, because she may now face deportation proceedings.

In a re-sentencing hearing ordered by an appeals court, Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Barbara P. Gorman decided that after serving eight years and four months of what had been a nine-year sentence for insurance fraud-related charges, Christian’s state prison sentence is over. But Christian is not free. There is a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer on the former restaurant owner.

Although she has lived in the U.S. for decades, Christian is not an American citizen. She was born in Croatia and raised in Germany, and has German citizenship, although she was considered a “permanent resident” of the U.S. after marrying a U.S. citizen.

It is likely, Judge Gorman told Christian, that the former restaurant owner will be transferred from Dayton Correctional Institution directly to the Butler County Jail, where she will await a decision by federal immigration officials on whether they will seek to have her deported. If they do, the final decision will be up to a federal immigration judge, according to Brock Schoenlein, Christian’s attorney during her appeals.

At her request, Christian was not in the courtroom Thursday. She appeared via video feed from the Dayton Correctional Institute. She did not make any statements beyond responding to yes-or-no questions from the judge.

Christian was convicted of five criminal counts after she set her own Miami Twp. restaurant on fire on Christmas Eve 2009 as part of a scheme to collect insurance money, and later staged a break-in at her Washington Twp. home. She had been scheduled to complete her entire nine-year sentence and to be released on May 8, 2021.

But two months ago, Christian won an appeals-court ruling that appeared to effectively shave a year off her sentence, meaning she could be released from her state prison sentence almost immediately. The appeals court sent the case back to Judge Gorman for re-sentencing.

Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction records obtained by the Dayton Daily News showed that Christian was written up 44 times for improper conduct during more than eight years in a state prison. The 44 disciplinary “conduct reports” began within months of her 2012 arrival at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville, where she has spent the bulk of her prison time before being transferred to the Dayton Correctional Institution.

Gorman told Christian that she considered those conduct reports when weighing her re-sentencing, but noted that most were for relatively minor offenses, and many involved stealing or hoarding food.

Christian’s appeals of her five-count conviction have traveled a complex and circuitous route up and down the state’s legal chain, from Montgomery County Common Pleas Court to the Ohio 2nd District Court of Appeals to the Ohio Supreme Court. In a July 24, 2020 decision, the appeals court ruled that Judge Gorman improperly re-sentenced Christian to her original nine-year sentence even after earlier appeals had reduced the severity of three of the five charges Christian was convicted of.

Christian founded and owned the now-defunct Cafe Boulevard (later Boulevard Haus) for nearly 15 years in Dayton’s Oregon District. She also founded and owned Cena Brazilian Steakhouse in Miami Twp. She was convicted of masterminding a scheme to hire others to set Cena on fire, and later trying to set it on fire herself, and of staging a break-in at her Washington Twp. residence, all in order to collect insurance money.

Gorman said Christian still owes restitution of more than $73,000 to two insurance companies, and may be subject to post-release control by the state parole board.

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