North Carolina mini-mart owner battles IRS over seizure of $107,000

The owner of a rural North Carolina convenience store is fighting back after the IRS seized his bank account of more than $107,000 under civil forfeiture laws targeting drug lords and terrorists.

Fox 8 reports Lyndon McLellan has been accused of structuring cash deposits to avoid bank reporting requirements. He takes in lots of cash running the L&M Convenience Mart in Fairmont, N.C. The mart includes a gas station and a lunch counter. The IRS has not accused him of any crime.

“It took 13 years to get it and less than 13 seconds, I guess, to take it away,” the 50-year-old says in a video on the Fox 8 website that his lawyers at the Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest law firm, produced.

McLellan aroused IRS suspicion with cash deposits of less than $10,000. He said he is not a criminal, just someone who has worked hard all his life.

“To make this kind of money selling soft drinks, cigarettes, and hot dogs somebody’s got to work,” he says in the video. “It wasn’t handed to us. It was taken from us. But it wasn’t handed to us.”

The Institute for Justice said the IRS has gone after a string of legitimate small business owners under for structuring violations under civil forfeiture. McLellan is only the most recent, the nonprofit said.

The IRS grabbed McLellan’s bank account a year ago, the New York Times said the other day in an article detailing McLellan’s plight.

The paper reported that at a congressional hearing in February, IRS commissioner John Koskinen testified the seizure of McLellan’s money appeared to violate a new policy not to pursue structuring cases unless there was proof of other illegality.

But federal prosecutors in North Carolina continue to go after the cash because the seizure took place before change took effect.

To get his money back, McLellan has the burden of proving the money came from legitimate sources.

He has rejected a deal that would let the IRS keep half the cash, the Times said.

“I thought do you quit now? Do you try and keep struggling and go on? And I chose to try to keep going on,” he said.

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