An eastern Washington rancher tied to a massive fraud scheme involving cattle that didn’t exist will serve 11 years in federal prison.

The sentence handed down this week calls for 51-year-old Cody Easterday of Mesa to pay $244 million in restitution for his wire fraud conviction.

Prosecutors say Easterday and his company forged invoices to charge Tyson Foods and another company for the purchase and care of 265,000 cattle that don't exist.

The judge in the case rejected Easterday's request he only be given probation, and called the scheme the biggest theft or fraud case he's ever thought if.

According to court records, Easterday and the business entered into agreements with Tyson Foods and another company calling for Easterday to purchase and feed cattle on behalf of the companies.

After the cattle were slaughtered and sold at market price, Easterday would repay the costs advanced – plus interest and certain other costs.

Easterday would then profit from the amount that the price exceeded what was repaid to the companies.

But over roughly four years (2016-2020), Easterday and his company collected hundreds of millions of dollars from the companies for more than a quarter million heads of cattle that he never purchased, raised, or fed.

Prosecutors say Easterbay used much of the money to cover $200 million in losses from trading on commodity futures.

The rest went toward Easterday’s personal use and for the benefit of his farming empire, including more than 22,000 acres of farmland, 150 employees, revenues of over $250,000,000, and even a private plane and hangar.

“The Criminal Division is committed to holding those who carry out fraudulent schemes accountable, especially those that are complex, long-running, and seriously affect our nation’s food industry and commodities market,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.


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