A northeast Iowa livestock company and four managers have been sentenced in federal court in a scheme to defraud livestock producers throughout Iowa and the Midwest.

Fifty-one-year-old Joe Wickham of Waucoma, 65-year-old Charlie Lynch of Waucoma, 60-year-old Leland “Pete” Blue of Fredericksburg pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud. While 31-year-old Tyler Thoms of Fayette pled guilty to one count of causing a livestock dealer to keep inaccurate accounts and records.

The charges came from their work with Lynch Livestock, where they were accused of downgrading cattle and manipulating scales to defraud customers during nearly two decades. Wickham and Lynch were fined $3,000s and Blue $1,000. Wickham was sentenced to six months in prison, the others were each given probation. The company was fined $196,000 and ordered to pay more than three million dollars in restitution.

Information for the U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Iowa says in a plea agreement, Lynch Livestock admitted that Lynch Livestock’s second-ranking official directed other managers and employees to falsely reduce and downgrade the numbers, quality classifications, and weights of swine that producers and sellers had delivered to Lynch Livestock’s buying stations throughout the Midwest, including but not limited to stations in the Northern District of Iowa.

The information says these practices largely concerned large, corporate swine producers who brought their swine for sale to Lynch Livestock. To effectuate the fraud, managers at Lynch Livestock’s headquarters created false and fraudulent scale tickets bearing the initials of the managers at the buying stations. By falsifying the producers’ accounts of purchase, Lynch Livestock and its managers created false and fraudulent invoices to pay less than what was due and owing to those producers. Lynch Livestock managers and employees then routinely shredded and burned evidence of the fraud and document destruction was a routine practice of the company and a specific response when it was anticipated that U.S.D.A. officials were investigating the company’s practices.

Lynch Family Companies chairman, Gary Lynch, released this statement:

“The company has taken full responsibility for all past sorting and weighing issues and we are ready to close this painful chapter. Our company is built on a strong foundation of integrity and trust, which is essential to our relationship with our customers.”

(This story was updated to include the Lynch statement)

 

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