American Guns' Gunsmoke Guns: Did Wyatt family rip off the I.R.S. for years?
Update: We've been following a series of surprising incidents involving Gunsmoke Guns, a Wheat Ridge store that served as the setting of American Guns, a reality TV series that was recently canceled by the Discovery Channel; see our previous coverage below.
Big photos below.
First, there was a robbery. Then, there was an IRS raid, which some Second Amendment boosters saw as politically motivated. Now, the search warrant affidavit has been unsealed (see it here), and it reveals that the inquiry into the business activities of the Wyatt family, who run Gunsmoke, has been underway for years.
A quick recap. Despite seemingly healthy ratings, American Guns' plug was pulled in December by Discovery executives, with recent examples of horrific gun violence, including the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, appearing to be primary factors in the decision. Then, on February 27, a thief or thieves broke into the shop through a hole in the roof, spiriting away twelve handguns and three rifles; no arrests have been made in the case. And the following week, the shop was briefly closed after I.R.S. agents arrived, armed with a search warrant.
That document is now public, and the agent filing it offers a straight-forward statement: "I respectfully submit that there is probable cause to believe that for the period of January 1, 2006 to the present, the following items, which constitute evidence of the commission of, contraband, the fruits of crime, or instrumentalities of violations of Title 26...for tax years 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 will be found at the PREMISES."
Rich Wyatt with a startled-looking President George W. Bush.
The section of the affidavit devoted to evidence states that in or around June 2010, an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was given information suggesting that Rich Wyatt, family patriarch and manager of Gunsmoke, "unlawfully possessed six...fully automatic weapons" in violation of U.S. law. This allegation caused agents to look more closely into the shop's records, figuratively transforming these weapons into smoking guns.
Shortly thereafter, agents discovered that while the Wyatts -- including wife Renee and kids Kurt and Paige -- have long been thought to own Gunsmoke, a certain Victor Rodriguez is actually the man with his name on the paperwork, although Wyatt told investigators he "did not have a hand in day-to-day operations." Rodriguez subsequently revealed that he'd purchased Gunsmoke from Wyatt in 2005 after Wyatt "went through a serious divorce." At the time, Rodriguez said the business wasn't profitable, but once it returned to the black, he'd agreed to sell it back to Wyatt.
Nonetheless, Wyatt's signature was on sales tax returns for Gunsmoke for most months between January 2008 and October 2011, but not on individual tax returns from the years 2008, 2009 and 2010 -- because he didn't submit any. He did file a 2011 form listing a loss from Gunsmoke of more than $98,000 -- and presenting no other sources of income, despite the fact that the Discovery show was on the air at that time. The affidavit adds that "neither Gunsmoke Inc. nor Gunsmoke Guns Inc. has ever filed Federal Income tax returns."
Another graphic shows what the agent believes is evidence of severe wage under-reporting. Over a five-year period, the highest paid person on the staff is shown to be Matthew Meece, who brought home a whopping $13,157.15 in 2007. Reported income for Rich and his wife, Renee, was less than $10,000 cumulatively during that stretch. Yet somehow, in 2012, they were able to buy a house in Evergreen for $678,000, with Renee paying $278,000 of that herself. She's also said to have purchased two Florida condominiums for a total of $338,000 despite reported adjusted gross income of $3,491 and $3,390 for the years 2008 and 2009, respectively.
Rich visits with Ted Nugent.
That's not all. The affidavit, which is 35 pages long, lists plenty about a lavish lifestyle and fancy cars that don't jibe with the comparatively tiny amounts of moolah the Wyatts reported to the I.R.S.
U.S. Attorneys Office spokesman Jeff Dorschner declines to comment further about the report, citing the ongoing investigation. But as indicated by the affidavit, life for these reality TV staples appears to have gotten a lot more real.
Look below to see the complete document, followed by our previous coverage.
Continue for our previous coverage of the Gunsmoke Guns robbery and search.