An Arizona man who stole $3 million worth of cattle sale proceeds from a sale barn has been sentenced to five years in federal prison and repaying the money he stole.
On Dec. 18, Seth Nichols, 29, was sentenced to his prison time and restitution payments after pleading guilty to federal back fraud in February. Under the plea deal Nichols was sentenced to the maximum prison term allowed by Judge Cindy K. Jorgenson.
Nichols was described as “like a son” to the owners of the Marana Stockyards and Livestock Market, who he defraud money out of by doctoring financial records while working as the office manager for the sale barn.
The scheme began to unravel in August 2017 when well-known rodeo cowboy Clay Parsons discovered $1.3 million missing from the accounts of the Marana Stockyards and Livestock Market, which his family has operated for nearly 30 years. The stockyard’s line of credit also was drawn down inexplicably by nearly $2 million, according to records from U.S. District Court in Tucson.
Parsons hired Nichols in June 2013 to run the day-to-day business at the stockyards.
Through the scheme Nichols used the sale barn’s line of credit to purchase cattle for Nichols Cattle Co. Those cattle were then sold at other markets and Nichols failed to pay back the stockyard. Nichols eventually admitted to sending the sale proceeds to his family’s company.
Money was spent by Nichols to fund what Jorgenson called a “very lavish lifestyle.” The stolen money was spent on such things as gambling trips to Las Vegas and partial ownership of a helicopter.
Nichols’ father, Donald Hugh Nichols, has also been indicted on bank fraud charges totaling $1.6 million of allegedly fraudulent cattle sales at the stockyard’s auctions. That trial is slated to begin in late February.