By: Mark Fitzgerald
In ‘over his head,’ he’s now on the way
out of the newspaper business
DON STENNESKI ISN’T yet old enough to drink a beer in Indiana, but he has already bought two newspapers, sold one, and, for the moment at least, publishes the Tri-County News in Edinburgh.
And now the 20-year-old publisher has a felony arrest record. Stenneski surrendered to Indiana State Police Feb. 23 on a Class C felony fraud charge involving the kiting of about a dozen checks totaling approximately $4,500. In Indiana, felonies are rated from A, the most serious, to D, the least.
It’s a development likely to end the career of southern Indiana’s most extraordinary publishing phenom.
Right out of Hope’s Hauser High School ? which does not even have a school newspaper ? Stenneski bought his hometown paper, the 1,400-circulation weekly Hope Star-Journal and became, at age 19, one of the nation’s youngest newspaper publishers.
In 1997, he expanded, buying the Tri-County Herald.
By last Christmas, however, Stenneski’s publishing trajectory started heading down as fast as it had risen.
He arranged to sell the Star-Journal back to its former owner, Charles Biggs, and, according to law enforcement authorities, he attempted to pay suppliers by kiting checks between the Star-Journal’s checking account and an account maintained for the Edinburgh paper.
“This is not your normal criminal intentionally defrauding a bank,” Stenneski’s attorney, David Nowak, said.
“This is somebody not paying attention to business as well as he should.
“Quite frankly,” Nowak added, “he’s gonna have to get out of his current occupation. . . . I would expect there will be a guilty plea to a lesser charge, perhaps a Class D felony, and . . . there will be full restitution to the bank involved, and I would expect he’s going to have to get out of the newspaper business and, too, I expect he is going to have to work long and hard to pay off the debts involved.”
The Tri-County Herald will be put up for sale very soon, Nowak said in a March 10 phone interview.
“His heart’s in the right place,” Nowak said. “He’s a young man . . . who without getting any legal counsel or business advice, saw an opportunity to buy one paper and then to buy another, and just got way in over his head. And so to his credit, he’s going to do something he does not want to do, which is get out of the paper before it misses a publication date.”
?(E&P Web Site: http://www.mediainfo. com)
?(copyright: Editor & Publisher March 14, 1998)
DATE: Sat 28-Mar-1998
PUBLICATION: Editor & Publisher
AUTHOR: Editorial Staff
LOCATION: Page 5
correction arrest bank fraud dion stenneski
Correction p. 5
ASTORY ABOUT a young publisher’s arrest in connection with bank fraud (March 14, p. 18) misspelled his name. It is Dion Stenneski.
?(E&P Web Site: http://www.mediainfo.com) [Caption]
?(copyright: Editor & Publisher April 4, 1998) [Caption]