Rancher takes $244M from Tyson Foods in ‘ghost cattle’ scam

Court documents state the companies agreed to pay Cody Allen Easterday, 51 of Easterday...
Court documents state the companies agreed to pay Cody Allen Easterday, 51 of Easterday Ranches, an advance on costs of buying and raising cattle.(Brian Johnson & Dane Kantner / CC BY-SA 2.0)
Published: Oct. 6, 2022 at 12:25 PM EDT
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(Gray News) – A cattle rancher in Washington state was sentenced to prison for defrauding Tyson Foods Inc. and another unnamed company out of more than $244 million in a “ghost cattle” scheme, according to the Department of Justice.

Court documents state the companies agreed to pay 51-year-old Cody Allen Easterday, of Easterday Ranches, an advance on the costs of buying and raising cattle.

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 in profits.

The DOJ said Easterday submitted false invoices to Tyson and the unnamed company to buy and raise hundreds of thousands of cattle that were never purchased and that did not actually exist.

Instead, Easterday used the $244 million given to him for the cattle for his personal use and benefit.

“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,” said U.S. Attorney Vanessa R. Waldref for the Eastern District of Washington.

According to authorities, Easterday used about $200 million for debts he had already incurred on behalf of the ranch.

He submitted false paperwork to CME Group Inc., which resulted in the organization exempting Easterday Ranches from application limits in live cattle future contracts.

“Cody Easterday spent years engaged in an extensive false billing scheme that resulted in millions of dollars in losses for the victim which led to sizable personal benefits for himself,” said Inspector in Charge Eric Shen of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) Criminal Investigations Group.

Easterday was sentenced to 11 years in prison.