Rancher Who Spearheaded $244 Million ‘Ghost Cattle’ Scam Sentenced To 11 Years In Prison

(FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

Taylor Giles Contributor
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A cattle rancher from Washington state was sentenced on Tuesday to 11 years in prison for a “ghost cattle” scam that cost Tyson Foods and another unnamed company over $244 million.

Cody Allen Easterday used his company, Easterday Ranches Inc., to charge the two companies for over 265,000 cattle that didn’t exist, according to a Department of Justice (DOJ) news release. “As a result of the fraud scheme, Tyson and Company 1 paid Easterday Ranches over $244 million for the purported costs of purchasing and feeding over 265,000 ghost cattle.”

Easterday’s company agreed to own the cattle on behalf of the two companies. “Once the cattle were slaughtered and sold at market price, Easterday Ranches would repay the costs advanced – plus interest and certain other costs – retaining the difference as profit,” according to the news release.

Once the cattle were taken to market, Easterday was then supposed to be responsible for paying the ownership costs to the companies, the DOJ said in the news release. However, the cattle never existed. (RELATED: Interstate Marijuana Duo Charged With Ponzi-Scheming Cattle Investments For Their Weed Business)

“No one is above the law. Mr. Easterday amassed significant personal wealth, yet, he wanted more, so he defrauded his victims of nearly a quarter billion dollars by charging for cattle that never existed.” US Attorney Vanessa R. Waldref said in the news release.

Easterday previously pled guilty in March 2021, to misleading the companies and fraudulently receiving the money. He also agreed to pay back the money.