Forgery charge in Johnstown pizzeria dispute

A would-be pizza shop operator was arrested Friday on a felony forgery charge, accused of signing th

A would-be pizza shop operator was arrested Friday on a felony forgery charge, accused of signing the name of the owner of the former Rainbow Restaurant on a lease to occupy the site for a new business.

State police in Mayfield arrested George Tirse, 29, for allegedly forging the name of Joseph Andrews — an officer of Mayflower Inc., which owns the East Main Street landmark — on an agreement to lease the property.

Tirse was arraigned Friday morning in Johnstown City Court and released without bail. He is due back in court Jan. 17. If convicted on the felony charge, he faces three to seven years in prison, according to Investigator Darryl Bazan of the state police Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

The lease was used to apply for a liquor license with the State Liquor Authority, Bazan said.

Tirse on Friday said he is not worried about the charge and freely admits to signing Andrews’ name on the lease agreement. “I think it is [expletive]. He is trying to scare me; the forgery was not done with intent to hurt anyone. When we made the deal, he told me to sign it and told me to fill everything out,” he said.

Tirse said there are actually two lease documents, the one that he signed and one that Andrews’ mother signed. “Once it goes to trial, it will come out. There are witnesses who saw [Andrews tell Tirse to sign the document],” said Tirse, who is also suing Andrews over the lease dispute.

Tirse said Andrews’ attorney told him that if he dropped his lawsuit, Andrews would drop the criminal charges. “I am not going to drop it,” he said.

Andrews’ attorney, J. Gerard McAuliffe Jr. of Johnstown, denied the exchange occurred in this manner. “I never, ever said that to anybody. Tirse and his attorney asked for that to happen,” he said.

Tirse’s attorney, Michael Smrtic, could not be reached for comment Friday.

Tirse is suing Andrews in state Supreme Court in Fulton County, alleging Andrews locked him out of the former Rainbow Restaurant just days before he was supposed to open his business, Anthony’s Brick Oven, at 16 E. Main St. Tirse is seeking $1 million in damages for fraud, misrepresentation, retaliatory eviction, breach of contract and conversion.

Andrews, a member of the Gloversville Enlarged School District Board of Education, has filed a countersuit, alleging that Tirse forged his signature on lease agreements and that he committed fraud. Andrews and Mayflower are seeking $3 million in punitive damages.

Tirse said he retrieved his equipment Dec. 26 and has it in storage. Meanwhile, he said he plans to find a job while his lawsuit goes through the courts. He said he still wants to open a pizza shop somewhere, but not at the former Rainbow Restaurant.

Categories: Schenectady County

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