NORWICH — The Internal Revenue Service appears to have quietly ended years of attempts to prosecute Vocatura’s Bakery over large cash bank deposits the business made.
Lawyers representing Vocatura’s said Thursday the IRS has agreed to withdraw a grand jury subpoena it issued to the longtime family bakery at 695 Boswell Ave., two weeks after it agreed to return $68,000 in cash it seized in a raid at the bakery three years ago.
“This is a prime illustration of the way civil forfeiture distorts law enforcement priorities,” attorney Robert Johnson, who is representing Vocatura’s Bakery, said in a statement. “The IRS seized the Vocaturas’ money for no real reason and spent three years trying to find a way to keep it. 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.”
Through his attorney, owner David Vocatura said he’s pleased the legal proceedings against the bakery appear to have ended.
“I’m happy the government is doing the right thing,” Vocatura said. “The past three years have been the longest in my life.”
Founded in 1919, Vocatura’s is a family-owned and operated business that has won numerous awards for its pizza and sandwiches and that enjoys a loyal customer following.
But the cash business set off alarm bells at the IRS after the owners deposited money in the bank in amounts less than $10,000. The deposits resembled a practice called structuring, which is designed to evade federal bank reporting requirements when making large deposits.
The Vocaturas have steadfastly denied any wrongdoing, and hired the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit libertarian law firm, to defend the bakery.
After the IRS agreed to return the money it had seized, it continued to move forward with a criminal tax investigation, including the subpoena which lawyers said would have forced Vocatura’s to produce almost every business record it generated over the past eight years.
The IRS seized the bakery’s money under structuring laws intended to target criminals such as drug dealers and money launderers, the institute said. But in the three years since the raid, neither the Vocaturas nor anyone associated with the bakery was charged with structuring.
After the initial seizure of the money, prosecutors took no action and had no contact with the Vocaturas for almost three years, Johnson said.
But this year, brothers and owners David and Larry Vocatura claim U.S. Attorney Peter Jongbloed sought to pressure them to agree to a “voluntary” forfeiture. They said in February, prosecutors demanded the two brothers sign an agreement to plead guilty to criminal charges of structuring, agree to a three- to four-year prison sentence, forfeit the $68,000 seized from the bakery and hand over an additional $160,000 of personal assets. The brothers refused the agreement, and their lawyer said Jongbloed then filed the grand jury subpoena.