Former Tidings editor could face felony charges

Former Ashland Daily Tidings Editor Andrew Scot Bolsinger and two others could soon face felony charges stemming from alleged loan forgeries and other financial irregularities at four downtown Ashland businesses he once co-owned.

Ashland police Detective Bon Stewart said he planned today to recommend that Bolsinger, his wife, Lori Bolsinger, and former employee Jody Lydick be indicted on felony charges based on a yearlong investigation into Bolsinger's printing and restaurant businesses.

Stewart said he will forward his reports to Jackson County District Attorney Mark Huddleston for review and presentation to a Jackson County grand jury, which handles felony indictments.

"I expect it to be there Christmas Eve," Stewart said Tuesday.

Stewart declined to say what and how many charges his report will recommend, other than that they were all felonies.

Court records show Stewart's investigation includes aggravated theft and forgery crimes involving $135,000 worth of loans allegedly generated from forged loan documents with Bolsinger's former business partners as the victims.

The businesses involved in the investigation were Pipon's Restaurant, the Jefferson State Pub, Lithia Stationers and The Main Source, a printing company. All have since closed. The pub recently was re-opened by its former owners.

A Mail Tribune investigation earlier this year revealed that the Bolsingers and those businesses racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt to former employees, suppliers, creditors and investors over the past three years.

Huddleston said he will review the case before deciding whether and when to proceed.

"I couldn't really predict how long that would take," Huddleston said.

Bolsinger, 42, did not answer calls Tuesday to his last known telephone number.

He was fired Feb. 5 from his post at the Daily Tidings.

Lori Bolsinger could not be located for comment Tuesday.

An affidavit filed in Jackson County Circuit Court by Stewart in April in support of a warrant to search The Main Source and seized business records stored there offer a glimpse into part of the case against the Bolsingers and Lydick.

The affidavit states that Bolsinger's two California-based business partners, identified as Timothy Gustin and Elaine Leffler, provided Stewart with copies of loan agreements in which they claim their names were forged. And on each of those applications was Bolsinger's signature as a witness to the forged signatures of Gustin or Leffler, the affidavit states.

One of those documents allegedly with Gustin's forged name was for an $80,000 loan to Pipon's from AdvanceMe Inc., a Georgia-based firm that handles business loans.

Former Pipon's General Manager Jorge Oliva allegedly witnessed Bolsinger send AdvanceMe an e-mail requesting the firm fax the loan agreement as soon as possible so Gustin could sign it before leaving Ashland, though Gustin was not in town at the time, the affidavit states.

When the $80,000 was deposited in Pipon's Ashland bank account, Bolsinger immediately withdrew $60,000 of it, the affidavit states.

The affidavit makes no claims as to who forged Gustin's signature.

In a Tuesday interview, Oliva said he never saw Bolsinger forge Gustin's signature on the document.

Oliva said he accompanied Bolsinger to the bank for the withdrawal. Some of the money went to pay employees' back pay, he said. Oliva said he did not know where the bulk of that cash went.

"His answer was, 'I'm taking care of business,'" Oliva said.

Oliva said he currently is in Mexico looking for work as a restaurant consultant.

Gustin's attorney provided a similar loan application for $15,000 from Bank of America, the affidavit states. That one bore Gustin's allegedly forged signature and the signature of Bolsinger as a witness to Gustin's signature, according to the affidavit.

Lydick, who formerly managed Lithia Stationers for Bolsinger, told Stewart that she forged Leffler's signature on a $20,000 AdvanceMe loan application at the direction of Scot and Lori Bolsinger, the affidavit states.

"It was at Lori's behest," Lydick said Tuesday. "Lori said it was OK to sign it. Elaine was her best friend.

"I know signing that document wasn't squeaky-clean legal," Lydick said. "I thought I was doing a favor for a friend."

Lydick, of Ashland, described herself as naive and "an honest person" who said she had no idea her interactions with the Bolsingers would one day lead to the possibility of a felony indictment.

"I know that believing them was one of the worst mistakes of my life," Lydick said.

Fred Stockwell, identified as a former Jefferson State Pub investor, said his name was forged on a $20,000 AdvanceMe loan application that also included Bolsinger's signature as a witness, the affidavit states.

That original loan document was faxed to AdvanceMe from inside the Daily Tidings office in Ashland, the affidavit states.

Stockwell could not be located Tuesday for comment.

The affidavit was used April 18 to search The Main Source's closed office at 310 Oak St. in Ashland and seize financial records from the four businesses. The records were in boxes with the businesses' names written on them and readable from outside the building, the affidavit states.

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