WASHINGTON -- A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Wednesday called on the Treasury Department to return $30,000 to a Western Maryland dairy farmer whose bank account was seized under a law intended to target money laundering.
Randy and Karen Sowers, who own the South Mountain Creamery in Middletown, had their account taken by the government after repeatedly making deposits of just under $10,000, a practice used by criminal organizations to avoid reporting requirements triggered by larger sums.
The couple has long denied wrongdoing and ultimately settled their case with Internal Revenue Service in 2012.
Their story has captured national attention from groups who have raised concerns about asset forfeiture. Randy Sowers testified in February at a hearing of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight. Nine members of that committee signed a letter Wednesday calling on the IRS to return the money taken from the Sowers family under their settlement.
"You have the opportunity to right the wrong done to these small business owners," the lawmakers wrote Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew. "The Sowers and others like them should be treated with the same fairness applied to cases going forward. We ask that you grant this petition and review other, similar cases and return the seized funds expeditiously."
The letter was signed Rep. Peter Roskam, an Illinois Republican and the chairman of the subcommittee, as well as the ranking Democrat, Rep. John Lewis of Georgia.
The Sowers family, which has owned the farm for decades, told the Frederick News Post that it had settled with the government because it had no other choice. Randy Sowers said that they needed to free the remainder of their money in order to keep their farm running.
The Treasury Department said Wednesday that it had received the letter and will respond directly to the subcommittee.