Former Carter County auto dealer indicted by grand jury

By Kathy Helms-Hughes
STAR STAFF
khughes@starhq.com

   The owner of a former Carter County automobile dealership was arrested Tuesday by Special Agent Danny Bowman of Tennessee Highway Patrol's Criminal Investigation Division following indictment Monday by a Carter County Grand Jury.
   Eddie Mike Hughes, 47, 104 Michael Drive, Hampton, was arrested on a presentment charging him with 52 counts of criminal simulation, two counts of forgery and three counts of theft over $10,000. A separate indictment charges Hughes with two counts of felony worthless checks totaling more than $12,000. Of those charges, one count of criminal simulation, one count of forgery and two counts of theft over $10,000 were brought by Detective Grayson Winters of Elizabethton Police Department's Criminal Investigation Division.
   According to Agent Bowman, the highway patrol began its investigation of Hughes on Feb. 25. On March 18, Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper Mark Musick, Special Agent Billy Grooms and Special Agent Bowman went to Hughes' residence and seized a 1999 GMC Denalli Yukon. Hughes is alleged to have altered the certificate of title on the Denalli.
   Officers obtained consent to search the residence from Hughes' wife, Terri. During the search officers found a black bag inside a 1969 Buick which contained numerous automobile titles and documents for Hughes' failed auto dealership, located on U.S. Highway 19E beside Stateline Drive-In.
   Officers also found a copy of a check for $36,700. Through investigation, it was determined that some of the titles, which were from 10 different states and the District of Columbia, were fraudulent. The loan values on the vehicles and check totaled $560,625 and does not include the theft of a 1995 Chevrolet Tahoe for which he is charged with making or altering a reassignment of title.
   Among the charges in the presentment, Hughes is alleged to have altered the certificate of title on 38 vehicles; altered security interest documents for a 1991 Nissan, a 2000 Chevrolet, and a 1993 Suzuki Sidekick; made or altered a North Carolina dealer's reassignment of title for a 2000 Chrysler Concorde and a 1994 Chevrolet Camaro Z28; altered a North Carolina Department of Transportation certificate of repossession for a 1999 Chevrolet Cavalier; altered a South Carolina Department of Public Safety bill of sale for a 1990 Lexus LS; made or altered a Virginia reassignment of title for a 1995 Chevrolet Tahoe and a 1992 Infinity M30; altered a check in the amount of $36,700; altered a dealer's bill of sale for a 1993 Suzuki Sidekick, a 1992 Infinity M30, and a 1995 Pontiac Firebird; and made or altered a power of attorney.
   According to Agent Bowman, it was determined that Hughes falsified applications for titles by saying they were lost or mutilated; obtained copies and copied documents on a Hewlett-Packard T45XI office jet copier; obtained titles through false applications and sold automobiles without the legal owners' knowledge.
   Agent Bowman said the copy machine used by Hughes was found at an auto dealership where Hughes was employed, however, it was not in use at the time.
   Hughes also faces several charges from Washington County Sheriff's Department, including hindering secured creditors. Those charges were levied during the same time frame of the THP investigation, according to Bowman.
   Hughes is employed by Alan Hodge Motors of Kingsport and previously had been employed by Greystoke of Johnson City. He operated two businesses, known as Hughes Performance Auto and Hughes Classic Auto, Bowman said.
   Hughes was being held Tuesday in Carter County Jail under $381,000 bond and is scheduled to have an initial appearance May 17 in Carter County Criminal Court.
   Anyone who has had business transactions with the now failed auto dealership and who has questions regarding the legitimacy of their title or loan is asked to contact Special Agent Bowman at (423) 282-2808, extension 5950; or Carter County Sheriff's Department's Criminal Investigation Division, 543-2211.