Farmer Refuses to Roll, Rips Lid Off IRS Behavior

Ag Web – by Chris Bennett

Strapped with pistols and carrying government IDs, two Treasury agents walked onto a Maryland farm on a cold winter morning in 2012, and asked for the owner – Randy Sowers. It was a blur of badges and questions, but Sowers’ four-year legal nightmare was only just beginning. “My story could belong to any farmer or business owner,” Sowers says. “People have almost no idea what the feds will do when they want to hurt you. What kind of power-hungry bureaucrats do we have when guilt or innocence plays no role in the system?”

Sowers was caught in the hooks of a law intended to capture crime lords and money launderers, and tagged with a bank deposit breach—a paperwork infraction with a sledgehammer penalty. Although the Frederick County producer wasn’t suspected of drug dealing, tax evasion, or criminal enterprise, Internal Revenue Service investigators wedged Sowers into a legal vise with almost no chance of escape. Sowers’ wife had made a series of bank deposits—all less than $10,000 cash and gleaned from farmers’ markets—and in response, IRS was baying for proverbial blood. “They seized almost $70,000 of our money, had us scared and thinking we were going to prison, and maybe losing all we’d worked for,” Sowers explains. “Roll over and shut up—that’s the game I was supposed to play.”

Instead, Sowers spoke to the press, raised Cain and refused to dance to the federal tune, and his actions eventually helped rip the lid off IRS’ “seize first, question later” tactics involving millions of dollars in private property grabs across the U.S. Within three years of the Treasury agents’ visit, Sowers would walk up Capitol steps and testify before House and Ways Committee members disgusted by IRS behavior, regain his money, and become a key catalyst for the passage of 2019 legislation limiting federal power. In short, Sowers became the dairy farmer who dared: “What was I going do when I felt like somebody was threatening my wife with jail and my livelihood? I was never, never going to give up.”

Upside Down

Sowers and his wife, Karen, are the owners of South Mountain Creamery in Middletown, Md., roughly 60 miles northwest of Washington, D.C. In 2012, Sowers had 320 dairy cows and grew 2,000 acres of corn and soybeans on the flat ground of a valley floor, consistently logging 16-hour workdays: “When things got tight, I’d work up to 20 hours a day, but I’m not complaining—I did it because I loved it. We were like a lot of Americans, working hard and grateful for what we had.”

In 2011, the Sowers set up shop at farmers’ markets or festival venues, dealt on a cash-only basis, and backed each sale with notation on a yellow legal pad. Every Monday, like clockwork, Karen entered a branch of Columbia Bank and deposited the cash proceeds, typically around $10,000. After a particularly large special event, Karen arrived at Columbia the following Monday with approximately $12,000, a bit more green than usual, and received a request from the bank teller, according to Sowers: “The teller asked Karen for a favor and said, ‘Make your deposit less than $10,000 and no paperwork is required.’ That was it. We did it because we were asked to do it. For 34 weeks, Karen deposited about $9,500 each time. I’m not saying it didn’t look a little odd, but there was a reason—we’d been asked,” Sowers says. “There was no tax evasion, no laundered money, and no drug money.”

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2 thoughts on “Farmer Refuses to Roll, Rips Lid Off IRS Behavior

  1. Cash only basis, eh? They shoulda just kept the cash! To me, checks from bank accounts and cash, actual cash, are two different things. If by cash they meant checks, then yep, they screwed themselves….and I find it very hard to believe they were unaware of “structuring”…I’ve known about it since the early 90s! It’s too bad some folks wait too damned long to search for the truth and wake the heck up!

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