I don’t understand why so many reality television stars seem to wind up with significant legal problems, but we can throw another one on the pile with the arrest of Rich Wyatt on charges that rather convincingly create the portrait of a dumb man who thought he was smarter than the law.
Richard Wyatt, 52, onetime star of the Discovery show American Guns and owner of the Gunsmoke gun shop, was arrested late last week on charges including dealing firearms without a license and tax evasion. According to CBS Denver, Wyatt now faces a 13-count indictment after officials say he continued to sell firearms, despite surrendering his Federal Firearms License in 2012 for unspecified violations of federal laws. Authorities also say that Wyatt failed to disclose $1.1 million in income to the IRS.
Wyatt’s family-run gun shop was the focus of American Guns from 2011 to 2012. According to his bio on Discovery, Wyatt had previously served as a former police chief, fire fighter, gunsmith, and firearms instructor. Also appearing on the show was his wife and Gunsmoke manager Renee Wyatt, as well their children. The show was canceled in late 2012 amid controversy and just a few months later the Denver-area shop was searched by the IRS. It was later raided in 2015 by the ATF.
Investigators accused Wyatt of conspiring with another gun shop to sell firearms without a legal license. Customers who bought firearms at Gunsmoke were directed to complete their purchase, including filling out the necessary paperwork for a background check, at another store with a valid firearms license. Authorities say Wyatt told his employees to enter all firearm sales as “miscellaneous sales” after 2012.
Wyatt is also charged with failing to report personal income during the years of 2009, 2010, and 2012. He also allegedly failed to pay corporate taxes from 2010 to 2012.
The article goes on to cite some of the show’s fans, who think Wyatt might have been targeted by the ATF and the IRS for his outspoken political views against gun control. I think it far more likely that the high profile of the show merely brought him to the attention of authorities, who then noticed irregularities between what the show portrayed as a highly successful business, and what he claimed as income, leading to the investigation.
Despite rising in popularity, Discovery cancelled American Guns in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary school massacre in which 26 students, faculty and staff were murdered, and two more faculty members were injured.