ON-Lion Letter

Two months ago, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve West told Lyndon McLellan, the owner of L&M Convenience Mart in Fairmont, N.C., that any attempt to garner publicity about the U.S. Internal Revenue Service's (IRS's) civil-forfeiture case against him "doesn't help.  It just ratchets up feelings in the agency.  My offer is to return 50% of the money."

In May, just two weeks after the Institute for Justice (IJ) in Arlington, Va., took on the case and brought it to the attention of the nation, the IRS and U.S. Department of Justice moved to voluntarily dismiss the case and give McLellan back 100% of his hard-earned money.

Banks are required to file forms with the authorities to report deposits of more than $10,000 in cash.  The law also makes it illegal to "structure" deposits -- depositing cash in amounts under $10,000 to avoid triggering the reporting requirement.  Aggressive enforcement of these laws can ensnare small-business owners who deal in cash.

McLellan was so ensnared.  He did nothing wrong. 

"I'm relieved to be getting my money back," McLellan said.  "What’s wrong is wrong, and what the government did here is wrong.  I just hope that by standing up for what's right, it means this won’t happen to other people."

Even after he recovers his bank account, McLellan is still out tens of thousands of dollars, thanks to the government's actions.  He paid a $3,000 retainer to a private attorney before IJ took the case on pro bono, and he also paid approximately $19,000 for an accountant to audit his business and to provide other services to help convince the government he did nothing wrong.  The government is refusing to pay those expenses and interest on them.

"The government cannot turn Lyndon's life upside down and then walk away as if nothing happened," said IJ attorney Robert Everett Johnson.  "Lyndon should not have to pay for the government's lapse in judgment.  And the government certainly should not profit from its misbehavior by keeping the interest that it earned while holding Lyndon's money.  We'll continue to litigate this case until the government makes Lyndon whole."

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee substantially supports IJ.

Actions: E-mail | Permalink |