Richard Wyatt, Wheat Ridge gun dealer and reality TV star, was convicted in Federal court for tax fraud and selling firearms without a license.
For two years, “American Guns” was one of the hottest reality TV shows on the Discovery Channel and Richard Wyatt was one of the station's rising stars.
The show followed the Wyatt Family and their Wheat Ridge gun store, Gunsmoke Guns, as customers came to them with unique firearm requests. This included firearm repairs, sourcing hard-to-find weapons, and even building custom firearms.
In the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, Discovery ended up cancelling the show in 2012 despite its high ratings. Season two of the show had received a 50 percent ratings boost. Nevertheless, the Discovery Channel chose to cancel the show given the political climate at the time surrounding firearms.
The show’s cancellation would become the least of the Wyatt Family’s worries…
In 2013, the store was robbed. A hole was cut into the roof and robbers descended into the store from the ceiling. It was not immediately reported what the thieves stole.
Shortly after the robbery, the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) raided the business. Unsealed affidavits
showed that Gunsmoke was under investigation for some time and had failed to pay Federal taxes for at least three years.
In addition to not reporting $1.1 million of income to the IRS, it also turns out that Richard Wyatt surrendered his Federal Firearms License (FFL) in 2009 for “unspecified violations of federal laws and regulations.” Since 2009, every gun he sold was sold illegally.
Undercover agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) posed as customers and were able to purchase four guns from Wyatt on three separate occasions, even though he was not a licensed dealer. The entire sting was filmed on body cameras.
The ATF promptly raided the store and seized a total of 583 guns from the location.
When the case went to trial, prosecutors argued that since surrendering his FFL, Richard Wyatt conspired with other licensed gun dealers to enable Gunsmoke to continue selling firearms without a license. Customers would walk into Gunsmoke, pick out their firearm, and pay Wyatt. Then, the customer would travel to another nearby gun store and complete the requisite paperwork and background checks.
First, Wyatt teamed up with a Castle Rock gun store called Triggers. After they were forced to surrender their FFL as well, prosecutors argued that Wyatt conspired with other area gun dealers to continue illegally selling guns.
The conspiracy to deal firearms without a license becomes even more brazen when you consider that the entire crime was captured on film for a reality TV show. On top of that, Richard Wyatt – an accomplished gunsmith – got one of his firearm designs picked up by manufacturer Smith & Wesson and added to their product line as “The Wyatt Deep Cover.”
Wyatt’s attorney, Mark Johnson, made it
clear that Gunsmoke never allowed any prohibited person to take possession of a firearm. “The only people who bought guns were entitled to buy a weapon,” he said. Richard Wyatt forced all customers to pass a background check before taking possession of a gun.
On the tax issue, the defense argued that while there was no doubt that Wyatt was a horrible bookkeeper, there was nothing nefarious about the store’s tax problems.
The Federal trial lasted six days and the jury deliberated for five.
On March 10, the jury found Richard Wyatt guilty on all ten counts of tax fraud and dealing firearms without a license. Jurors failed to reach a unanimous verdict, however, on three counts of illegally transporting firearms. It is unclear at this time whether prosecutors will pursue these three charges any further.
Richard Wyatt was immediately taken into custody once the verdict was read and faces up to 15 years in prison.
A sentencing date has not been set.