For most of his life, Lyndon McLellan has been in the business of country stores—the types of stores where the employees know customers’ names by heart and workers remain loyal for years and years.

His parents owned a general store and grill, and McLellan began helping out there at the ripe old age of 9. Then, 14 years ago, McLellan decided to try his hand at the family business and purchased his own store in the heart of the Bible Belt, naming it L&M Convenience Mart.

Business has been good for McLellan, and though L&M, located in Fairmont, N.C., began as just a convenience store and gas station, he’s since expanded it to include a restaurant that serves hot dogs, hamburgers and catfish sandwiches.

While most of his employees and their families spend Sunday mornings making right with God, McLellan skips church to man the store. He’s there on Christmas Day and during Thanksgiving dinner—a sacrifice McLellan makes for his employees.

“It’s my livelihood,” he told The Daily Signal. “This is all I know how to do. I’m 50 years old, and if I had to do something else, I’d probably be in trouble. This is what I was brought up in. This is all I know.”

What McLellan didn’t know, though, was that the federal government could come in and take away what he’d worked so hard for.

On a summer day last July, McLellan, who hadn’t yet arrived at the store, received a phone call from one of his employees summoning him to L&M. More than a dozen federal agents had flooded into his business—officers from North Carolina’s Alcohol and Law Enforcement, the local police department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation—and they were asking for him.