STRATFORD, Texas â€” A Stratford man turned himself in to authorities Tuesday after he was charged with third degree felony livestock theft. Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association Special Ranger Ben Eggleston along with Oklahoma Deptartment of Agriculture Agent Donnie Crain worked the investigation.
Aaron Smith, 40, allegedly stole 22 head of cattle on 3 different occasions dating back to October 2011 from a rancher in the Texas Panhandle.
The cattle were worth an estimated $20,000. Smith was an employee of the victim when the cattle were stolen.
The investigation began in March after Smith attempted to sell 14 head of cattle at the Texhoma Livestock Auction in Texhoma, Okla.
Investigations revealed that Smith had stolen cattle from the same victim on two previous occasions.
According to Eggleston, the cattle were located due to the watchful eye of the sale barn owner and workers. They noticed the cattle had fresh brands placed over existing brands, a crime in and of itself.
Eggleston traced back the original brand to the victim through TSCRAâ€™s brand registration database.Â The 14 head of cattle were returned to the owner.
â€śThis case is a perfect example of why it is important to always brand your cattle and register that brand with TSCRA,â€ť said Eggleston. â€śBecause these cattle were branded, we were able to confirm they were stolen and return them to the owner quickly.â€ť
Smith is out on a $10,000 bond. If convicted he could face up to 10 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.
TSCRA would like to thank the Oklahoma Dept. of Agriculture and the Sherman County Sheriffâ€™s Office for help with the investigation.
TSCRA has 30 special rangers stationed strategically throughout Texas and Oklahoma who have in-depth knowledge of the cattle industry and are trained in all facets of law enforcement. All are commissioned as Special Rangers by the Texas Department of Public Safety and/or the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.
TSCRA is a 135 year-old trade association and is the largest and oldest livestock organization based in Texas. TSCRA has more than 15,000 beef cattle operations, ranching families and businesses as members. These members represent approximately 50,000 individuals directly involved in ranching and beef production who manage 4 million head of cattle on 76 million acres of range and pasture land primarily in Texas and Oklahoma, but throughout the Southwest.