Cattle rustlers adapting well to 21st century

Cattle rustling, generally seen as a kind of rough-and-tumble criminal occupation conducted under moonlight and on horseback, has taken on a white-collar tinge.

Modern-day rustlers sell cattle over and over or use them as collateral over loans — several times over, Colorado Brand Commissioner Rick Wahlert said Monday.

Wahlert was attending the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association convention at the Two Rivers Convention Center.

Instances of rustling are up in recent years, Wahlert said, possibly as a result of more reporting and possibly as it’s become easier to rustle cattle — physically and electronically.

In one recent Western case, a man obtained $7.2 million in loans from banks in Montana and North Dakota for a cattle operation.

When the loans went bad, investigators found that multiple loans had been obtained on a herd of 60 head.

Feedlot scams, in which cattle owners sell the same cattle twice, or even more, are making a comeback, Wahlert said.

“They think they’ll make it back” on a big enough sale, Wahlert said.

Even careful buyers who insist on viewing cattle can fall prey to scam artists who show them a herd, but not the brand-inspection report, Wahlert said.

“They go to see the cattle, but they don’t know any different,” he said.

Ranchers have a different challenge as they deal with the energy boom, which left prime grazing lands criss-crossed with well-constructed roads.

“You could drive a Cadillac on them,” he said, and put a calf in the trunk, or in a trailer, with the rancher never the wiser, he said.


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