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Ely canoe outfitter shut down by IRS

A canoe-country angler fishes the shoreline of a small lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. (file / News Tribune)

Ely's oldest operating canoe-outfitting business has been shut down by the Internal Revenue Service for nonpayment of taxes, with equipment and canoes apparently seized by the government.

An IRS notice on the door of Wilderness Outfitters notifies potential customers of the closure and warning people to stay away.

Reached by phone Wednesday morning, owner Gary Gotchnik told the News Tribune that he hoped to resolve the issue and reopen the business quickly. But it's not clear how that might happen.

A search by the News Tribune found at least five active federal tax liens against the business and its owners, Gary and Marcy Gotchnik of Ely, filed with the county recorder's office. The state of Minnesota has two liens against the business and its owners.

The liens are for tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid taxes.

Meanwhile Northern National Bank in Ashland has filed a civil lawsuit claiming the Gotchniks were in default on $199,940 still outstanding on a mortgage for the business. The suit, filed May 18, said the original loan was for $714,000. The complaint notes that the bank is moving to take the business before state and federal authorities do the same to satisfy tax liens.

A hearing has been set for Aug. 17 for the civil suit.

According to the company website, Wilderness Outfitters began operation in 1921 with several shareholders. Gary Gotchnik's history with Wilderness Outfitters started as a fishing guide. In 1985 he became part owner with Jim Pascoe, and the Gotchnik family has owned the business since 1995.

The outfitters offered canoes, tents, food and other gear to canoe campers entering the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The company offered motorboat "tows" for canoe trips. The company's website said it had more than 15 employees and more than 125 canoes for rent.

The tax woes are the latest trouble for Gary Gotchnik who in 2015 lost his job as finance director of Fortune Bay Casino amid allegations of credit card misuse. In February 2015, Gotchnik — who had been was listed as chief executive officer of Bois Forte Development Corp., which manages the casino — resigned the position.

There's no evidence any legal action was ever taken against Gotchnik on the credit card allegations.

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