A California man has been arrested after allegedly defrauding more than a million dollars from prospective cattle buyers in a scheme that spanned four states.
Justin Tyler Greer, 36, was arrested Dec. 28 in Tarzan, Texas, after being suspected of investment fraud, embezzlement and cattle theft.
There are seven victims who are out $1.5 million in losses. The investigation began in June 2017 when the victims claimed to be coming up hundreds of head short. Cattle owned by investors were illegally sold and moved to Colorado and Wyoming.
“This is 21st Century cattle rustling and embezzlement at the highest level,” says Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux.
Greer was extradited back to Tulare County, California, on Dec. 31 where he is from and a press conference was held by local authorities on Jan. 4.
Tulare County Sherriff’s Agricultural Crimes Unit tracked down Greer with the aid of Texas Rangers and U.S. Marshals. Local authorities in Texas also helped with the arrest, along with assistance from the Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association Special Ranger Unit.
“Given the complexity of this case, I am proud of the amount of progress they made to get this case to this point,” Sheriff Boudreaux says. “And I very much appreciate the assistance of other law enforcement agencies throughout the Western United States.”
In addition to working as a cattle broker, Greer managed cattle owned by ranchers in California, Wyoming and Colorado. Authorities describe the cattle as being backgrounded and then ran as stockers before being sold when they reached a marketable weight. Greer allegedly failed to meet financial obligations in April and May, raising flags for his customers.
Audits were issued by two victims to determine if cattle were stolen as they were coming up hundreds of head short.
“When people began saying, ‘where are our cattle and they couldn't produce the cattle where is our money from the bills or profits we should have made,’ nothing could be provided so that's when investigators got involved,” Sheriff Boudreaux says.
Authorities have recovered 900 cattle in Wyoming, but it is believed that thousands more are unaccounted for.
The cattle in Wyoming were on pasture illegally, says Sheriff Boudreaux. They were found with the help of California Bureau of Livestock Identification Brand Unit and criminal investigators with the State of Wyoming Livestock Board.
The U.S. Forest Service is investigating the case of the cattle in Wyoming in a parallel criminal investigation because cattle were being grazed without the proper permits.
Greer also had partners who invested in cattle they thought were for sale, except Greer didn’t own them or the cattle never existed.
“This is a classic example of someone robbing Peter to pay Paul,” says Tulare County District Attorney investigator Jeff Gilbert. “This is basically a Ponzi scheme.”
Authorities say Greer was doing business at a number of financial institutions with multiple accounts. More than 25 search warrants were served to look at accounts, office locations, residences and electronic devices. Hundreds of documents were looked at to see what transactions had been made because so many cattle were changing hands.
While the Western way of life is a still alive and you should be able to trust a man’s word with a cowboy handshake, Sheriff Boudreaux says, in this particular case it did not ring true.
“When that trust is broken, it shocks the consciousness of the community and the industry,” Sheriff Boudreaux says. “We, at the Sheriff’s Office, take it very seriously when one man steals another man’s cattle and commits fraud.”
Thirteen counts of grand theft have been alleged against Greer, with three separate counts for investment fraud. The state felonies could result in a maximum of 26 years in prison.
The lack of grazing permits on U.S. Forest Service land in Wyoming could have additional penalties or jail time.
Greer is currently being held in jail at a pre-trial facility in Tulare County with bail set at $1.9 million. The case is still under investigation and there could be others involved, according to authorities.
Police are asking people with any information regarding this case to contact the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office at (559) 733-6218 or anonymously through the TipNow Program at (559) 725-4194 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The entire press conference can be watched below: