A Gainesville business owner today was sentenced to 20 months in prison and to pay $43,000 in restitution to the government after he falsely claimed government agents fined his business.
Charles Ricky Tomlin was found guilty in December of fabricating a story in which the Environmental Protection Agency assessed $272,000 in fines against his business. He is the owner of Street Dreams, a vehicle repair and customizing business formerly located on Old Cornelia Highway and now located in Mount Airy.
Prosecutors alleged the scheme was part of an attempt by Tomlin to avoid paying rent on the business.
Attorneys for Tomlin say they plan to appeal the sentencing.
Investigators conducted an undercover investigation at the business over the course of two days in mid-November 2010 after Tomlin made the claims he was fined for violations including contamination of water and soil as a result of tires, batteries and other debris on the property.
That investigation began with the belief Tomlin was a victim of people posing as EPA agents and attempting to defraud him.
EPA Special Agent Nicholas Evans testified in December that the investigation cost taxpayers more than $43,000.
Tomlin first contacted the Georgia Department of Natural Resources' Environmental Protection Division to report two EPA agents visited on two occasions and threatened fines up to $2 million. He told EPD investigators those agents were named "Robert" and "Tracy" but didn't give last names.
Investigators became suspicious of Tomlin after he failed to record phone conversations with "Robert" or any other subject and falsely claimed the man pulled into an abandoned car wash adjacent to the property during surveillance.