A would-be film producer from Darlington was indicted Tuesday by a county grand jury on charges of forging his partner's signature on checks totaling $14,000.

John W. Tower, cousin of former Republican Sen. John Tower of Texas, was charged with 38 counts of forgery following a 16-month investigation by the Bel Air Police Department, court records show.

Tower, 37, also was charged with three counts of failing to file state tax returns and one count each of filing false state tax returns, theft and fraudulent misappropriation of funds.

Following the grand jury's indictment, Tower was arrested at his home in the 3600 block of Harmony Church Road Tuesday by Bel Air police investigators.

Tower was released from the county Detention Center after posting $25,000 bond.

Tower said in an interview Friday that the charges against him have no merit.

"I'm glad this thing has come to a head,"Tower said. "I welcome the opportunity to address this in court."

Tower and Christopher Boardman, of Joppa, established Genesis Communications Inc. in 1988 to produce a full-length theatrical film called"Cocoa Beans."

Tower, as the company's president and chief executive officer, is accused of withdrawing money from a joint checking account at Forest Hill State Bank by forging Boardman's signature, saidJohn W. Harkins, Bel Air police spokesman.

Withdrawals from the company's bank account required the signatures of both Tower and Boardman, Harkins said.

The 38 checks -- issued between Sept. 26, 1988,and March 8, 1989 -- ranged from $22 to $1,125, according to the indictment.

The investigation started when Boardman complained aboutthe checks to Forest Hill Bank officers. Bank officers then filed a complaint with Bel Air police on Aug. 30, 1989, Harkins said.

During the investigation, Harkins said police determined that Tower failed to file state tax returns for Genesis Communications in 1988 and 1989.

Tower also did not file tax returns for another one of his companies, Capital Communications and Entertainment Corp., according to the indictment.

Tower also is accused of falsely stating the income of his businesses to avoid paying taxes, the indictment charges.

Boardman, a free-lance writer and civic activist, declined to comment on Tower's indictment.

Boardman recently announced plans to run for the 2nd District congressional seat in 1992.

Tower and Boardman became partners in 1988 to raise $5.3 million to produce the film "Cocoa Beans," which was to be based on a comedy screenplay written byBoardman.

The screenplay told the story of a man involved in the importation of cocoa beans from the fictional African country of Bhuhana.

In a November 1988 interview, Tower and Boardman said GenesisCommunications was well on the way to raising the money needed to start production of the planned movie.

The partners financed the project through a limited partnership with $5,000 as the minimum investment.

Production on the movie -- which they said would star major Hollywood actors -- was to start in summer 1989 with much filming donein Harford County, Tower had said.

But the production never started and the relationship between the partners became tense.

Tower sued Boardman in Harford Circuit Court for $30 million in September 1989, accusing his partner of fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and defamation, court records show.

The suit was settled out of court and the case was dismissed in October 1990, records show.

Part of the Tower's suit focused on Boardman's statements to investors, bank officials and police investigators that Tower was involved in illegal activities, including theft and fraud, documents say.

Boardman admitted that he had made the statements in his response to Tower's suit, adding that Tower forged his name 42 times, according to the court documents.

"I never gave (Tower) nor anyone else permission to sign myname, neither verbally nor in writing," Boardman stated in civil suit records. "Nothing was said that was not true."

Promotional materials filed as part of the civil suit say that Tower served in executive positions with the Council of the Americas, the East-West Trade Council and the American Opportunity Development Corp.

Tower worked as an aide for his cousin, Sen. Tower, for several years. When the senator left office, Tower worked as a Washington, D.C., political consultant and lobbyist.

Tower also is credited as the creator and producer of several radio and television programs, including "Peak Performance," "Impact" and "Maryland Tomorrow."

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