Man Goes To Prison For Lying To Federal Agents
Defendant Concocted Scheme to Avoid Paying Rent
GAINESVILLE, GA - CHARLES “RICK” TOMLIN, 55, of Ellenwood, Georgia, was sentenced today by Senior United States District Judge William C. O’Kelley to serve almost 2 years in federal prison on charges of lying to federal agents.
“The time of law enforcement officers should be devoted to investigating real crimes, not fictitious crimes that this defendant made up,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “Now that Mr. Tomlin has been sentenced to federal prison, I suspect he is reconsidering how wise it was to tell a federal investigative agency a series of elaborate lies, just to avoid paying rent.”
“The defendant’s actions caused significant government resources to be expended needlessly. The Office of the Inspector General will vigorously pursue those who make false statements for their own personal gain at the expense of taxpayer dollars,” said Arthur Elkins, Jr., EPA Inspector General.
TOMLIN was sentenced to 1 year, 8 months in prison to be followed by 3 years of supervised release, fined $5,000, and ordered to pay $43,331.49 in restitution. TOMLIN was convicted of these charges on December 6, 2011, after a jury trial.
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: From September to December 2010, TOMLIN ran “Street Dreams,” an automotive repair business in Gainesville, Georgia. In November 2010, TOMLIN told a Georgia Environmental Protection Division Environmental Specialist that a man calling himself “Robert” said that he was a Special Agent with the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and that he was going to assess large fines on the business property for violations of environmental laws and regulations. The Environmental Specialist passed this information on to the EPA. Concerned that either there was a rogue Special Agent or that someone was falsely claiming to be a Special Agent, EPA Special Agents interviewed TOMLIN at Street Dreams. TOMLIN provided a physical description of “Robert” and his vehicle, and TOMLIN spoke about the number of times that “Robert” had been out to the business. TOMLIN claimed that “Robert” took soil and water samples and that “Robert” later called to say that a number of pollutants had been found in the samples. TOMLIN also said that “Robert” told him that he would cap the fines at approximately $270,000. “Robert” only needed TOMLIN to provide his banking account information, which would end the investigation. According to TOMLIN, “Robert” was calling the business twice a day and said that he would be back out to the business on November 16, 2010, to collect the fine.
Special Agents set up surveillance on and around Street Dreams on November 16 and 17, 2010. While the agents were conducting surveillance of Street Dreams, TOMLIN claimed to see “Robert” driving by and parking near his business. Special Agents conducting surveillance, however, observed no vehicles at all where TOMLIN claimed “Robert” was parked. TOMLIN also claimed that “Robert” telephoned him around 9:30 one morning. However, a device recording the telephone numbers of incoming and outgoing phone calls at Street Dreams showed that there were no calls between 9:00 and 10:00 a.m. TOMLIN had been given a recorder to record any calls that “Robert” made but said that he forgot to turn it on when “Robert” called.
An investigation of TOMLIN’s misrepresentations revealed that he had contracted to pay $2,500 a month in rent for the property where he was running Street Dreams. Agents also learned that TOMLIN told the landlord that he would not pay the $2,500 a month in rent because he was paying exorbitant fines to the EPA for environmental problems with the property. TOMLIN claimed that the EPA had frozen his bank accounts when in actuality TOMLIN had no account at the bank that he identified. TOMLIN claimed that the Hall County Fire Inspector had seen “Robert” when he was conducting a safety inspection of the business. EPA Special Agents interviewed the Fire Inspector, who said that when he was out on the property he had seen a Gainesville Police Department Detective, not someone claiming to be an EPA Special Agent. The EPA spent more than $40,000 investigating TOMLIN’s claims.
This case was investigated by Special Agents of the Environmental Protection Agency, Office of the Inspector General.
Assistant United States Attorney Paul R. Jones and Special Assistant United States Attorney Greg Radics prosecuted the case.
For further information please contact Sally Q. Yates, United States Attorney, or Charysse L. Alexander, Executive Assistant United States Attorney, through the U.S. Attorney's Public Information Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the HomePage for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia is www.justice.gov/usao/gan.