Former auto dealer gets 100 days jail time on forgery, criminal simulation counts

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   The former owner of an automobile dealership in Elizabethton will serve 100 days on work release after pleading guilty to four counts of forgery and criminal simulation.
   George Gwinn Jr., 32, was sentenced to 14 years by Sullivan County Criminal Court Judge Phyllis Miller who suspended the sentence except for 100 days of jail time to be served on work release, according to court documents.
   Miller's sentence gives Gwinn the opportunity to serve all 100 days of the sentence over a 10-year period. Miller's decision was submitted to Carter Count Circuit Court last week.
   Gwinn also was indicted in a presentment handed down Sept. 5, 2001, by a Carter County Grand Jury charging him with four counts of forgery, four counts of criminal simulation, and hindering a secured creditor. Those charges followed an investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Elizabethton Police Department Criminal Investigation Division.
   A massive fire swept through a building owned by Gwinn on May 11, 2002. The building housed three businesses including Precision Collision Repair, which was owned by Gwinn. He was arrested two days later by the Johnson City Police Bureau on theft, forgery and wiretapping charges.
   According to the Carter County indictments, Gwinn was charged with forging a notice to discharge a lien at Northeast Community Credit Union "so that it purports to be the act of Ann Morgan, who did not authorize that act"; forging with the intent to defraud Northeast Community Credit Union by "altering, making, completing or authenticating a loan application so that it purports to be the act of Martin Meredith, who did not authorize that act"; making or altering a notice to discharge a lien; making or altering an assignment of title; making or altering an affidavit for duplicate certificate of title; making or altering an application for certificate of title. The charge of hindering a secured creditor listed the Northeast Community Credit Union as plaintiff.
   The case was transferred from the 1st Judicial District to the 2nd Judicial District of Sullivan County in November 2002. Both 1st Judicial District Criminal Court Judge Lynn Brown and Judge Robert Cupp recused themselves from the case, and Judge Miller of the 2nd Judicial District was appointed.
   The District Attorney's Office for the 1st Judicial District, where Gwinn's wife at the time, Melanie, was and is an assistant district attorney, also recused itself from the case, citing a conflict of interest. The couple divorced in May 2002, according to court records in Carter County Chancery Court.
   Mike Flynn of Maryville was appointed District Attorney General Pro Tem and prosecuted the case.