Gunsmoke Guns owner Rich Wyatt was once a high-profile reality-TV star who rubbed shoulders with presidents and celebrities.
Now, just over two years after his Discovery Channel program American Guns was cancelled, Wyatt has been arrested on a theft charge following at least the second federal raid on his Wheat Ridge-based business.
And while the theft beef is said to have been unrelated to the raid, the combination of the incidents is the latest gut-shot for a man who's experienced a mighty fall.
Here's a promo clip for American Guns, in which Rich co-starred with wife Renee and kids Paige and Kurt....
...and here's the Discovery Channel description of the show prior to the launch of the its second season:
The Wyatts are your typical suburban family who just happened to own one of the premiere firearms facilities in the world. Rich Wyatt and his wife Renee own Gunsmoke, located outside Denver, Colorado, where they buy, sell and trade guns — from hand cannons to hunting rifles. And if you don't see what you want, they'll build one for you — from nothing more than a block of metal. Gunsmoke has the largest and most experienced group of gunsmiths in the state. When the Wyatts aren't building or selling guns, they're shooting them. No gun leaves their shop without being test fired by the family first.This premise was not especially controversial at the time the program was launched, and Wyatt's prominence gave him the opportunity to meet some notable folks, including a startled looking President George W. Bush....
...and fellow firearms enthusiast Ted Nugent:
But according to a Fox News report published in December 2012, American Guns' Facebook page was clobbered in the immediate aftermath of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.. This post is an example:
"I know you all have to make money but would Discovery Channel PLEASE consider ceasing to broadcast the show in the U.K.? Sadly your program makes buying/owning guns seem fun, glamorous, even normal," wrote one.
Another tweeted, "Dear Discovery Channel: it's not appropriate showing the program American Guns now!"
A third viewer weighed in: "With Discovery shows like 'Sons of Guns', 'American Guns', 'Ted Nugent's Gun Country' etc it's not surprising how guns r seen as acceptable."
Shortly thereafter, the Fox News piece went on, Discovery announced that the show had been cancelled and would not return for a third season — this despite a 50 percent ratings increase from season one's debut to the second season launch and a statement from Renee Wyatt that a season three would definitely happen.
Then, beginning in February 2013, came a rash of stories linking Gunsmoke Guns and crime.
In the first couple of items, the business is said to have been the victim.
Note that in late February 2013, man named Wylie Newton was accused of stealing an antique pistol in New Mexico and then trying to fence it at Gunsmoke.
A few days later, twelve handguns and three rifles were presumably spirited away from the store by burglars thought to have gained entry to Gunsmoke through a hole in the roof.
But the following week, it was Gunsmoke that was being examined for possible wrongdoing. The shop was briefly closed after I.R.S. agents arrived, armed with a search warrant.
That document, shared below in its entirety, includes the following statement: "I respectfully submit that there is probable cause to believe that for the period of January 1, 2006 to the present, the following items, which constitute evidence of the commission of, contraband, the fruits of crime, or instrumentalities of violations of Title 26...for tax years 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 will be found at the PREMISES."
The section of the affidavit devoted to evidence states that in or around June 2010, an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was given information suggesting that Rich Wyatt "unlawfully possessed six...fully automatic weapons" in violation of U.S. law."
This allegation caused agents to look more closely into the shop's records, figuratively transforming these weapons into smoking guns.
Shortly thereafter, agents discovered that while the Wyatts had long been thought to own Gunsmoke, a certain Victor Rodriguez was actually the man with his name on the paperwork, although Wyatt told investigators he "did not have a hand in day-to-day operations."
Rodriguez subsequently revealed that he'd purchased Gunsmoke from Wyatt in 2005 after Wyatt "went through a serious divorce." At the time, Rodriguez said the business wasn't profitable, but once it returned to the black, he'd agreed to sell it back to Wyatt.
Nonetheless, Wyatt's signature was on sales tax returns for Gunsmoke for most months between January 2008 and October 2011, but not on individual tax returns from the years 2008, 2009 and 2010 — because he didn't submit any. He did file a 2011 form listing a loss from Gunsmoke of more than $98,000 — and presenting no other sources of income, despite the fact that the Discovery show was on the air at that time. The affidavit adds that "neither Gunsmoke Inc. nor Gunsmoke Guns Inc. has ever filed Federal Income tax returns."
Another graphic shows what the agent believes is evidence of severe wage under-reporting. Over a five-year period, the highest paid person on the staff is shown to be Matthew Meece, who brought home a whopping $13,157.15 in 2007. Reported income for Rich and his wife, Renee, was less than $10,000 cumulatively during that stretch. Yet somehow, in 2012, they were able to buy a house in Evergreen for $678,000, with Renee paying $278,000 of that herself. She's also said to have purchased two Florida condominiums for a total of $338,000 despite reported adjusted gross income of $3,491 and $3,390 for the years 2008 and 2009, respectively.
That's not all. The affidavit, which is 35 pages long, lists plenty about a lavish lifestyle and fancy cars that don't jibe with the comparatively tiny amounts of moolah the Wyatts reported to the I.R.S.
Despite this information, Gunsmoke remained in operation. But on March 31, 7News revealed that IRS agents, accompanied by colleagues from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, had raided the shop again.
The latest: The Wheat Ridge Police Department announced that Wyatt had been named on an arrest warrant for theft from an at-risk adult.
According to the WRPD, the victim in the case "had consigned a rare and antique gun collection with Wyatt in 2013," after which "repeated efforts by the victim at recovering several of the weapons had failed."
Wyatt turned himself in to authorities this past Friday, April 10.
Meanwhile, the WRPD pointed out that "several of the stolen guns" were recovered by ATF agents during the most recent raid, described as having been prompted by "an unrelated, ongoing federal investigation."
Likewise, the investigation into Gunsmoke continues as well.
The Wheat Ridge Police Department encourages "anyone with further information regarding consignment issues at Gunsmoke Guns contact our tip line at 303-235-2947."
Look below to see Wyatt's booking photo, followed by the 7News piece about the raid and the 2013 search warrant affidavit.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.