Patrice Duncan, 59, co-owner of Conway's Duncan Outdoors, has reached a plea bargain in felony charges filed against her in 2012 when the IRS raided her business for structuring a financial transaction in order to evade bank reporting requirements on cash deposits of more than $10,000.
Duncan has pleaded guilty to one count of structuring a financial transaction in exchange for all charges filed against her husband Gary to be dropped.
"I pled to one count so they would drop my husband totally," Patrice said.
According to the US Attorney's office, structuring has a statutory maximum of not more than five years in prison and/or not more than a $250,000 fine followed by not more than three years of supervised release.
Patrice's plea bargain suggests probation rather than the five-year prison term.
"If the judge doesn't accept the plea bargain we'll have the option to drop the plea and go to court," Patrice said.
The plea was announced by Christopher R. Thyer, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas and Christopher A. Henry, Special Agent in Charge of the IRS-Criminal Investigation Nashville Field Office on Wednesday.
Patrice and Gary were indicted by a federal grand jury on September 5, 2012, on 21 counts of structuring financial transactions totaling more than $300,000 in deposits. She pled to Count 21 of the Indictment. The remaining counts against Duncan were dismissed.
In September and October 2011, an undercover agent of the IRS-Criminal Investigations went to Duncan Outdoor and purchased a motorcycle with cash.
According to a news release from the US Attorney's office, the undercover agent, who was wearing a recording device, discussed paying in cash so that the bank and government would not know of the transaction.
The release says Patrice was recorded discussing with the undercover agent that she would not deposit all the money at one time so that the bank wouldn’t fill out the forms that document transactions over $10,000.
Patrice said the discussions the news release claims were initiated by her, were words actually spoken by the undercover agent.
On October 25, 2011, Patrice deposited $9,400 cash from the undercover agent’s purchase. A few days later, on October 28, 2011, Patrice deposited the remaining $2,000 cash from the undercover agent’s purchase.
"I didn't know it was illegal," Patrice said.
There are many reasons why Patrice didn't deposit the nearly $11,500 at once, she said, but the main reason is insurance.
Patrice explained if cash were to be stolen from Duncan Outdoors, the business' insurance would reimburse them up to $10,000, so each time they get near "the magic $10,000 number" they make a deposit.
The undercover IRS agent told the couple his name was Chad Copper and that he was a bartender from Cincinnati, Ohio, Patrice said.
"We had no idea he was an IRS agent," she said.
The Duncans have spoken out in a video online called "Rampant Injustice" in which they say the IRS used harassing tactics when federal agents searched their business in 2012.
The raid was uncalled for," Patrice said. "They had 20 armed IRS agents in our business. They shut it down, lined our employees up execution style and took them one by one and questioned them without reading any rights."
Upon the plea, U.S. District Judge James M. Moody Jr. issued a preliminary order for Patrice to forfeit $94,500 that was in a Centennial Bank checking account at the time she and her husband were indicted in September 2012.
"We're just counting that as money lost in the stock market in our effort to try to get back to a normal life," Patrice said.
The Duncans have been in business in Conway for 33 years.
"I would never have pleaded guilty if it not had been for my family and employees," Patrice said. "If we both went to trial, we feel like we could win, but it's a gamble. This way we can keep the business, keep our employees and go on with our life."
A sentencing date has not yet been set, but Patrice's attorney tells her the plea could be accepted by Aug. 1.