Tri-Cities rancher pleads guilty to cattle scam

Tri-Cities

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — A Tri-Cities cattle rancher has pleaded guilty in federal court to a single count of wire fraud and faces up to 20 years in prison for a scam involving cattle that did not exist.

Defense attorneys contended Wednesday that Cody Easterday of the Tri-Cities started trading on the commodities market as a hedge against losses inherent in the up-and-down cycle of agriculture markets and became addicted.

“He did that successfully for a lot of years,” defense attorney Carl Oreskovich said. “But he became addicted, like a gambling addiction, to commodities trading and engaged in some very large transactions of millions of dollars, and lost money.”

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Easterday pleaded guilty Wednesday and is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 4. He has also promised to pay $244 million in restitution, Oreskovich said.

The scheme began in 2016 and unraveled in November when officials from Tyson Foods Inc., a company that Easterday had contracted with to purchase and feed cattle, became aware that they had been billed for up to 200,000 cattle that didn’t exist.

According to court records, Easterday defrauded Tyson by charging them for the purchase and feeding costs for hundreds of thousands of cattle that existed only on paper.

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