IRS decides against subpoena in Norwich bakery probe

Norwich — The IRS has decided not to pursue a grand jury subpoena targeting a local bakery that had been cited for depositing large sums of cash under the regulatory $10,000 limit for financial reporting, according to a libertarian public-interest law group representing the business.

The Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Justice said Thursday that it received an email from the IRS Tuesday informing attorneys for Vocatura's Bakery that the government would no longer be subpoenaeing a wide range of financial records over an eight-year period as it pursued a criminal investigation.

Two weeks ago, the bakery had received more good news when the IRS agreed to return more than $68,000 it took three years ago under a controversial policy known as civil forfeiture.

Co-owner David Vocatura, reached Thursday evening at his Boswell Avenue bakery, said he could not comment because he wasn't sure the case is entirely over.

"I'm happy the government is doing the right thing," he said in a statement released by the Institute for Justice, the same group that defended property rights in the Fort Trumbull eminent domain case in New London.

A call to the lead attorney on the case, Robert Everett Johnson, was not immediately returned.

But in a statement released by the institute, he called the Vocatura case a prime illustration of civil-forfeiture laws that have distorted the way law enforcers operate.

"The IRS seized the Vocaturas' money for no real reason and spent three years trying to find a way to keep it," Johnson said. "Now, after putting the Vocaturas through the wringer, the IRS is walking away from a case it never should have started in the first place."

The case began in May 2013 when armed government agents raided the bakery and seized its bank account under civil forfeiture procedures, citing a series of cash deposits under $10,000 that the bakery had made contrary to structuring laws that were meant originally to target drug kingpins, money launderers and other criminals.

The Vocaturas were pressured to settle the case and even plead guilty to felony charges, but refused to do so, saying they had done nothing wrong.

The cash deposits, based on the business being largely a cash business, had been kept below the $10,000 threshold so as not to inconvenience bank tellers, they said.

The Institute for Justice, aided by local counsel Ross Garber of Shipman & Goodwin LLP, has been fighting civil forfeiture cases nationwide.  

l.howard@theday.com

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