Lawmakers in both parties are pushing the Treasury Department to give back $30,000 to a Maryland dairy farmer who lost his cash in a controversial seizure more than three years ago.
Randy Sowers, who runs a popular farm near Frederick, Md. was targeted in 2012 for making regular bank deposits of under $10,000. Such payments were deemed “structuring” to avoid reporting requirements of deposits over that amount. He signed a settlement giving up about half of $63,000 seized by the Internal Revenue Service. But Sowers has since testified against the seizure in Congress, saying he agreed to a settlement only to keep his business going.
“I think the government ought to give me my money back,” he told lawmakers at a congressional hearing in February.
They agreed. Lawmakers on the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight wrote to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew on Wednesday, asking him to exercise discretion and return the money to Sowers.
“As the Treasury Secretary, you have the opportunity to right the wrong done,” Chairman Peter J. Roskam (R-Ill.) and ranking Democratic Rep. John Lewis (Ga.) write, noting that under a change in Justice Department policy this year, bank accounts can’t be seized without documentation of serious illegal transactions.
The lawmakers ask Lew to review other past cases that might violate the current policy.
Attorneys for Sowers and his wife, Karen, are also petitioning the government to return the funds.
“The policy change implicitly recognizes that what happened to Randy and Karen was not fair, was not appropriate, and did not adequately respect Randy and Karen’s constitutional rights to property and due process,” the petition argues.
The Maryland Department of Justice, which handled the Sowers case, declined to comment.
Sowers’s South Mountain Creamery, meanwhile, is thriving, expanding its milk delivery business throughout Pennsylvania, the District, Maryland and Northern Virginia.