Easterday Sentencing May Be Moved Back

Criminal Sentencing for Former Rancher in 'Ghost Cattle' Scam May Be Delayed

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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Former Washington rancher Cody Easterday's criminal sentencing has been delayed until possibly September. (Photo by Tim-Evanson, cc-by-sa-2.0)

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- The criminal sentencing of former Washington rancher Cody Easterday could be moved to September, after his attorneys this week filed a motion to delay the sentencing pending the completion of a related bankruptcy case involving Easterday Farms and Easterday Ranches.

On May 11, DTN reported in error that Easterday's criminal sentencing had been delayed to Aug. 10. In fact, the legal proceedings in a lawsuit filed by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission have been stayed until then.

Easterday pleaded guilty to wire fraud charges in a so-called "ghost cattle" scheme. On Thursday, Easterday filed a motion to continue the criminal sentencing to sometime in September to complete his role in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. In those proceedings, debtors including Tyson Fresh Meats presented a plan to liquidate the assets of Easterday Ranches and Easterday Farms.

The CFTC sued Easterday as well, alleging his company violated the Commodity Exchange Act and CFTC regulations.

The CFTC's complaint stated Easterday amassed more than $200 million in losses during a 10-year period trading cattle futures on both his personal and business accounts. Easterday then admitted last fall that he had caused Easterday Ranches to submit invoices for cattle that never existed to cover millions of dollars in those trading losses.

The CFTC complaint sought restitution, civil penalties and permanent trading and registration bans on Easterday.

Easterday operated an extensive family farm operation in eastern Washington involved in cattle feeding as well as 22,500 acres of potatoes, onions, corn and wheat in the Columbia Basin.

Beginning in 2016 and continuing through November 2020, Easterday submitted false and fraudulent invoices and other information to Tyson and another company, according to court documents and the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Easterday Ranches Inc. owner received reimbursement from the companies for the purported purchase and raising of cattle the company never actually bought.

As part of the guilty plea to the criminal charge, Easterday also agreed to repay $244 million in restitution, according to the DOJ.

According to court documents, Cody Easterday used Easterday Ranches to enter into a series of agreements with Tyson and another company to purchase and feed cattle.

As part of the agreements, Tyson and the unnamed second company would provide funds for Easterday to buy and raise cattle.

After cattle were slaughtered and sold at market price, Easterday Ranches would repay the costs advanced and retaining as profit the amount by which the sale price exceeded the sum repaid to Tyson and the second company.

Read more on DTN:

"Winning Bid on Easterday Assets: $209M," https://www.dtnpf.com/…

"WA Rancher Admits 'Ghost-Cattle' Scam," https://www.dtnpf.com/…

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @DTNeeley

Todd Neeley