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Washington rancher pleads guilty, agrees to pay $244M over nonexistent cattle

Cody Easterday’s scheme to defraud two companies, including Tyson Fresh Meats, began in 2016 and was created to cover more than $200 million in trading losses.
Credit: Shannon Dininny
Cattle feed at a trough at an Easterday Ranches feedlot near Pasco.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Cody Easterday pleaded guilty in federal court late Wednesday to defrauding two companies, including Tyson Foods subsidiary Tyson Fresh Meats, of $244 million by charging the companies for the care and feeding of cattle that did not exist, as reported by KREM 2 News partner the Columbia Basin Herald

According to a press release from the U.S. Justice Department, Easterday pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and agreed to pay $244 million in restitution to the two companies, one of which was referred to only as “Company 1.”

Easterday’s scheme to defraud the two companies began in 2016 and continued through 2020, and was created to cover more than $200 million in commodities trading losses. As a result of the losses, two family companies — Easterday Ranches and Easterday Farms — are currently in federal bankruptcy court and report total outstanding debts of more than $400 million.

“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 for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division Nicholas McQuaid.

“The Criminal Division’s prosecutors are committed to swiftly and thoroughly prosecuting frauds affecting our nation’s agricultural and other commodities markets, whether in the heartland or on Wall Street,” McQuaid said.

Easterday, 49, is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 4, and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, according to the Justice Department.

The Columbia Basin Herald is a KREM 2 news partner. For more from our news partner, click here.