VALDOSTA, Ga. — Cattle rustling has moved from six-guns and branding irons to the financial sector.
An Alabama livestock broker admitted in Valdosta’s federal court that he conducted cattle deals but never paid farmers money they were due, instead diverting the profits for his personal use, said Charlie Peeler, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia.
Tommy W. Baxley, 72, of Slocumb, Ala., pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of theft of livestock before U.S. District Judge Hugh Lawson, according to a statement from Peeler. Baxley faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. A sentencing date has not been set.
Baxley was a registered livestock dealer doing business as Tri State Cattle Marketing. From September 2017 to February 2018, he brokered five separate feeder cattle deals with farmers in North Carolina, Mississippi and Moultrie, the statement said.
Baxley never paid the farmers who sold him the cattle, stealing $414,265.45, Peeler said.
Baxley admitted to investigators that he failed to pay the farmers for the cattle, and instead used the money in the hopes of making more money so he might ultimately pay for the cattle, according to the statement.
“Cattle rustlers and others who steal from our hardworking farmers and ranchers will face federal prosecution in the Middle District of Georgia,” Peeler said. “I want to thank the U.S. Secret Service, the Colquitt County Sheriff’s Office, the Thomas County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Department of Agriculture for their combined investigative work in this case.”
“Mr. Baxley violated the trust of livestock farmers throughout the Southeastern United Sates. Mr. Baxley knowingly brokered livestock transactions without having any intentions of paying the farmers for their cattle. The actions by Mr. Baxley caused emotional and financial hardships to the innocent livestock farmers that cannot be repaired,” said Clint Bush, resident agent in charge, United States Secret Service, Albany, Georgia Resident Office.