The government is seeking to take more than $62,000 from a local dairy farmer who it says knowingly violated federal banking statutes meant to curtail money laundering.
In a six-page complaint filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod Rosenstein accused Randy and Karen Sowers, who own South Mountain Creamery on Bolivar Road in Middletown, of violating federal currency reporting requirements -- known as structuring -- by depositing money in increments of less than $10,000 so they would not have to fill out forms required under the Bank Secrecy Act.
The couple deposited more than $295,000 into a PNC Bank account in about 36 separate transactions of just under $10,000 each from May 6, 2011, though Feb. 27, 2012, Rosenstein said. During that time, the couple's cash receipts from farmers markets, including two in Baltimore, totaled more than $320,000, the complaint said.
"The holding back of cash receipts in excess of $10,000 indicates a knowledge of the Currency Transaction Reporting requirement and an attempt to evade it," Rosenstein said.
David Watt, the Sowerses' lawyer, declined to comment on the case before the complaint was filed.
"What I'm concerned about is influencing an ongoing investigation," Watt said. He could not be reached after the filing late Thursday.
Both Randy and Karen Sowers said Thursday that they have done nothing wrong and had never heard of structuring until Treasury Department officials showed up at their farm Feb. 29 to question them about deposits.
On that day, they received a summons to testify before a Baltimore grand jury on April 3, according to documents provided by the couple and viewed by The Frederick News-Post.
About 45 minutes into that Feb. 29 questioning they learned the account, which had about $70,000 in it at the time, had been seized, they said. The couple then received a warrant about the seizure.
"I said, 'Huh?'" Randy Sowers said. "They said, 'Yeah, we seized it.'"
While he feared going public would hurt his case, Sowers said he hoped the attention might create some understanding of the couple's plight.
"The level we deposited was what it was and it was about the same every week," Randy Sowers said.
The money the couple deposited into the account was income from their sales at farmers markets and was to be spent on their farming business, he said.
"This time of the year is always tough because you're buying seed and everything else," Randy Sowers said.
Spokesmen for the U.S. Attorney's Office initially declined to comment Thursday and could not be reached after the complaint was filed.
Randy Sowers said late Thursday that he had not seen the complaint.
Extra cash from farmers markets may have been deposited into other accounts belonging to the couple, he said.
"We deposited money in the bank. That's what we did," he said. "That's all there is to say."