Rancher Wants $244M Owed Tyson Reduced

Former WA Rancher Easterday Tells Court Tyson Owes Him Millions, Wants Restitution Cut

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Environmental Editor
Connect with Todd:
Former eastern Washington rancher Cody Allen Easterday has asked the court to reconsider the amount of restitution owed to Tyson Fresh Meats. (Photo by Tim-Evanson-cc-by-sa-2.0)

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- With a former eastern Washington rancher's sentencing on wire fraud charges set for Tuesday the plot has thickened, as Cody Allen Easterday has filed a motion to delay the restitution portion of the sentencing.

In a motion filed in the U.S. District Court of the District of Eastern Washington over the weekend, Easterday asked the court to consider three amendments to the $244 million in restitution he owes to Tyson Fresh Meats.

A hearing on the motion has been set for Tuesday afternoon in Yakima, Washington. Prosecutors are seeking a prison sentence of 10 to 12.5 years for Easterday, in addition to the restitution he agreed to pay as part of a plea agreement. So far Easterday already has paid about $70 million in restitution and has asked the court for a three-year probation sentence.

He motioned the court to determine the "actual net loss incurred by Tyson Foods in conjunction with the totality of its business dealings with Mr. Easterday and/or Easterday Ranches, Inc." Easterday asked the court to consider three potential "offsets" to the remaining $170-plus million still owed.

Easterday said in his motion Tyson still owes him some $163 million in offsets.

"First, Easterday Ranches, Inc. ("Easterday Ranches") was never paid by Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc. for certain feed and cattle-care services rendered," Easterday said in his motion, arguing Tyson owes him nearly $12 million for the services.

"Second, Tyson has collected over $51 million in interest and guaranteed funds from Easterday Ranches in violation of the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921. In this vein, Tyson has maintained that it owned the cattle that were purchased and fed by Easterday Ranches and collected the above-referenced interest and guaranteed funds from Easterday Ranches from 2010 to 2020."

In addition, Easterday argues that along with Tyson his operation participated in a marketing venture utilizing "Cody's Beef" for seven to 11 years.

"Tyson utilized Mr. Easterday's name and likeness for a branded beef product sold in Japan, in turn agreeing to compensate Mr. Easterday," Easterday said in his motion.

"Despite utilizing 'Cody's Beef' for at least seven years (program and labeled product commencing around 2010, applying to register the trademark in 2013, receiving the registration in 2014, and maintaining the trademark which is presently active), Tyson has never provided any compensation to Mr. Easterday, accounted for any profits, and has solely retained all revenue arising out of this marketing arrangement. The amount of associated compensation wrongfully retained by Tyson is approximately $100 million."

U.S. attorneys filed an objection to the motion, saying Easterday had "violated the terms of his own plea agreement, ignored the settlement he entered into in connection with the bankruptcies of Ranches and Easterday Farms, mischaracterized the circumstances of those bankruptcies, concocted imaginary 'setoffs' to which he now belatedly claims entitlement, and egregiously misstated the applicable law."

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.

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

Easterday pleaded guilty to a so-called "ghost-cattle" scam, according to pre-sentencing memorandums filed in court on Sept. 19.

Easterday pleaded guilty to wire fraud charges in the ghost-cattle scheme. Debtors, including Tyson Fresh Meats, presented a plan to liquidate the assets of Easterday Ranches and Easterday Farms in its Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Read more on DTN:

"Easterday Seeks Probation; US Says Jail," https://www.dtnpf.com/…

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

Follow him on Twitter @DTNeeley

Todd Neeley

Todd Neeley
Connect with Todd: