Max and Cerisa Moncayo Recount Their Ordeal
Last year, two Palisades News advertisers–The Palisades Dentists and Palisades Surgical Arts–paid a total of $20,400 up front for ads through 2018. But when the newspaper ceased publishing (for the first time) in June, advertisers Max and Cerisa Moncayo were not alerted and were owed $10,200 in pre-paid ads.
No one at Palisades News contacted the Moncayos to let them know the paper wouldn’t be appearing the second week in June, nor in July or in August.
In September, the couple sent an email to Wagenseller Publishing (owned by Scott Wagenseller) and asked that their remaining ads be published.
Cerisa Moncayo told Circling the News that editor Debbie Beavers-Moss reached out to them and said that the paper was resuming publication and that their ads would run.
“We were promised that the ads that didn’t print [that summer] we would get printed in future issues,” Cerisa said.
Beavers-Moss left the paper at the end of October (after four issues) and Wagenseller again placed the News on hiatus through November.
According to the invoices provided to CTN, The Palisades Dentists paid its first 2018 installment on April 1 ($3,480) and its second installment on June 1 ($3,480), which would take its advertising through the end of 2018.
Yet by the end of 2018, The Palisades Dentists was still owed five issues ($2,900).
Ads for Palisades Surgical Arts were schedule to run twice a month in 2018, and Max Moncayo paid $6,720 in January and $6,720 in April. At the end of December, he was owed for nine issues or $5,040.
Wagenseller still owed the Moncayos $7,940 for ads when he sold the paper to TJ Montemer of the Mirror Media Group in Santa Monica in early December.
“Scott never reached out to us. Ever. For any reason,” Cerisa said. “We got no warning or information about the paper being sold. TJ and Mirror Media never reached out to us.”
The Moncayos learned about the sale of the newspaper, Cerisa said, “when I noticed the Pali News in the dirt on our street in December,” Cerisa said. “I thought that was weird–my neighbors and I usually get our own copies in our mailboxes. And I flipped through it and noticed how bad it looked….content, format, everything.”
And . . .the dentists’ ads were not in the paper. They contacted the Mirror Media Group VP of Ad Sales Judy Swartz. “She was completely confused,” Cerisa said. “She said they only bought the name and the website.”
“Max and I just couldn’t have imagined that a [military] veteran brother [Wagenseller] could conduct himself so poorly, especially in such a small community,” Cerisa told Circling the News in a February 25 email. “We understand that things happen, but it really has just been so disheartening. It is hard to run a successful, ethical business but it’s not that hard.”
After Cerisa graduated from Stanford University with a biology degree (where she became fluent in Spanish), she attendedthe Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry at USC and was part of the IV Sedation team, led by renowned Dr. Stanley Malamed. During that time, she traveled to Southeast Asia and Central America on humanitarian missions.
After dental school, Cerisa served as a Naval Officer, stationed with the Marines. She worked the entire scope of dentistry from cosmetic to trauma management to oral surgery.
Max graduated from Cal Poly Pomona. In 2001, he was commissioned as a Naval Officer and started his dentistry training at UCLA. He decided to focus on oral and maxillofacial surgery. At the Water Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, he completed his residency. He was deployed several times before ending up at Camp Dwyer in Afghanistan, while serving in the 1st Marine Corps Division. After serving the nation’s wounded and also suffering an injury in Afghanistan, Max returned to Southern California. He is on the faculty at the UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center and teaches residents at UCLA’s School of Dentistry.
The Moncayos married January 16, 2016 and came to Pacific Palisades in June that year. They were both still in active duty in the U.S. Navy, which is where they met.
They eventually took over a practice in the 881 Alma Real Building and had a large enough space to house both of their businesses. They joined the Chamber of Commerce and American Legion Post 283, where they met Wagenseller, a Naval Reserve officer who also owns Gates Security and Palisades Patrol.
In December, the Moncayos had two options. They could pursue Wagenseller legally or see if the paper’s new owner would honor the ads they were owed.
“Both options seemed futile….We didn’t want to keep advertising,” Cerisa said. “We really contemplated going after him [Scott] legally, but again…we were (and are) just stretched so thin focusing on our staff and patients.
“We decided to just see if Mirror Media would honor our remaining ads,” she said. “They did. They really didn’t have an obligation to honor these ads since they clarified they ‘only bought the name’ and were unaware of our issue.
She noted that her husband is having more difficulty processing this whole ordeal because “someone who should have the utmost integrity and grit is so spineless and took advantage of so many people.”
The Moncayos wonder how many other Palisades News advertisers might have been faced with a similar dilemma.