$250 Million scam: Man steals millions from company to feed cows that didn't exist

cows
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Apr. 2 2021, Updated 4:50 p.m. ET

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A Washington man admitted to defrauding Tyson Foods Inc. and another company out of more than $244 million by charging them to help purchase and feed hundreds of thousands of cattle that did not exist.

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Cody Allen Easterday, 49, used his company, Easterday Ranches Inc., to enter agreements with Tyson and another company where they would advance his company the costs of buying and raising the cattle.

Once the cattle were slaughtered and sold, Easterday Ranches agreed to repay the advanced costs and retain the profit.

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However, the hundreds of thousands of cattle were never purchased by Easterday Ranches, according to federal prosecutors. 

This scheme started in 2016 and continued through November 2020, federal prosecutors noted. Easterday and his employees sent false invoices, which caused Tyson and the other company to pay more than $244 million for purchasing and feeding the “ghost cattle.”

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“For years, Cody Easterday perpetrated a fraud scheme on a massive scale, increasing the cost of producing food for American families,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

Easterday pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and agreed to repay $244,031,132 in restitution. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 4 and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

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