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All hoax and no cattle

Rancher creates hundreds of thousands of cattle — on paper

Cody Easterday was a Washington state rancher and farmer with a sterling reputation. Then Tyson Foods discovered that for at least four years he sent fake invoices to that company, and another, for $244 million for the care and feeding of 265,000 head of cattle that didn’t exist. He pleaded guilty to wire fraud and is serving an 11-year sentence in federal prison. Here’s an analysis of the fraud from a prosecutor, investigators and fraud examiners.

Debby Easterday would wake up in the middle of the night after hearing notifications from her husband Cody’s phone — either casino slot machine bells or crashing glass sounds. Cody, the president of Easterday Farms and Easterday Ranches based in eastern Washington, was playing the commodities future markets. Debby complained about his preoccupation with hedging on cattle futures. “He would just blow it off as him doing what he needed to make good decisions on his trades,” Debby said. “I complained to friends and confidantes and was usually told Cody knows what he is doing; he’s fine.”

But Cody Easterday wasn’t fine. He allegedly had a severe gambling addiction and was losing huge amounts on commodities futures. From 2011 through 2020, he lost about $202 million. In one year alone, he forfeited $59 million. His cattle operation couldn’t withstand these debts, so Easterday concocted an outrageous scheme to create cattle out of thin air to increase his bottom line and remain solvent.

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