A Washington state rancher has been sentenced to 11 years in prison for a nearly quarter-billion-dollar ripoff of Tyson Foods Inc.
in which it sold the meat processor more than 260,000 head of cattle that didn’t exist. Prosecutors say Cody Easterday, 51, of Mesa, Wash., ran the “ghost cattle” scam for more than four years in order to cover over $200 million in losses he had incurred trading commodity futures.
“The sheer magnitude of the fraud that Easterday perpetrated is staggering,” federal prosecutors wrote in court filings. “The $244 million that Easterday stole would have funded the combined police, courts, and fire budget of Yakima — a city of nearly 100,000 people — for more than four years.” Investigators say that Easterday, who ran a family farm and feedlot in southeastern Washington, went into business with Tyson in 2016, offering to purchase and feed cattle on the company’s behalf, until the cattle were ready for slaughter. As part of the arrangement, Tyson would front Easterbay the money to purchase and feed the cattle, paying back those funds at 4% interest when the cattle were sold for slaughter. Easterbay would keep the difference in price as his profit, according to court documents. Over the course of four years, prosecutors say, Easterday submitted invoices to Tyson for over $2 billion in cattle. But prosecutors say Easterday padded the invoices by over 10% with so-called ghost cattle, or animals that didn’t actually exist. “Easterday never purchased the cattle. Inste …