Law enforcement from the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department and Texas arrested Tyler Greer of Exeter, third from left, Dec. 28 in Tarzan, Texas, on fraud and grand theft charges. Authorities have described the man as a modern-era cattle rustler who bilked clients and investors, most from Tulare County, out of about $1.5 million in a scheme involving cattle sales.

published on January 4, 2018 - 4:04 PM
Written by David Castellon

An Exeter man is facing up to 26 years in prison for what Tulare County’s sheriff described as “a 21st-century, modern cattle-rustling case.

“It’s no longer the time when you can look at somebody’s cattle on the field” to buy and sell them, as these days such purchases often are done online and via cell phone, and Justin Tyler used this fact to scam his victims out of at least $1.5 million in money and cattle, Sheriff Mike Boudreaux said in a press conference today.

He said Tyler was arrested Dec. 28 in Texas on a Tulare County warrant. The man didn’t fight extradition, and he was arraigned Wednesday in Tulare County Superior Court in Visalia on 13 counts of grand theft and three counts of investment fraud involving seven reported victims — five from Tulare County, one from Wyoming and one from Colorado.

Each reportedly lost between $28,129 and $449,232 — along with cattle, in some cases —- after deciding to partner with Tyler or contract to purchase cattle with the intent of fattening the animals and selling them later at a profit, Boudreaux told reporters.

At the time, he said, Tyler was well-known and respected in the local cattle industry, having come from a family that worked with cattle and working on his own as a cattle broker and a manager of herds in Tulare, Kings and Kern counties.

So “trust was violated,” said Boudreaux, noting that some deals were made with a “cowboy handshake.”

But problems surfaced for Tyler in April and May of last year, when he reportedly didn’t pay his investors or clients money due them, and the Sheriff’s office was contacted in June, leading to an investigation.

It was no small investigation, said Boudreaux, noting that members of the Sheriff’s Agricultural Crimes Unit, along with two investigators and a forensic accountant from the county District Attorney’s Office, spent thousands of hours pouring over business and financial documents — including some obtained through warrants served at 13 banking institutions — to look at Tyler’s business dealings.

In some cases, sheriff’s officials said, no cattle were bought, and Tyler is accused of pocketing his partners’ and clients’ money, while in other cases, cattle were bought and later sold, and he reportedly pocketed the profits.

“This is a perfect example of somebody entering into a Ponzi scheme,” said Sheriff’s Detective Randy Gunderman, referring to a scheme in which money paid by new investors are used to pay off prior investors to make the investment look profitable.

In Tyler’s case, he apparently ran out of money to keep the reported scheme afloat, said officials, who didn’t note how much money from bilked investors the man may still have.

Additionally, Sheriff’ Sgt. Bobby Rader said, deputies found evidence that Tyler arranged to put his own brand on calves born at ranches “and made them his own.”

Investigators here are working with investigators in Wyoming and Colorado — where some of the purchased cows ended up —

to determine if any crimes happened there, but so far no charges have been filed in those states.

One of those cases involves an investigation by the U.S. Forest Service of whether Tyler may have had cattle grazing on federal land in Wyoming and Idaho without having obtained a license to do so, Rader said.

Boudreaux said his department has located about 900 head of cattle belonging to the investors, and there may be thousands more yet to be located.

He said his detectives finally built their case and requested a warrant to arrest Tyler on Christmas Day, but he wasn’t in Exeter or even in California at the time.

The sheriff said he didn’t know if the man was on the run at that point, “but he didn’t make it easy to find him.”

He went on to say it took skilled detective work to find the man at the home of a friend or acquaintance in Tarzan, Texas. The sheriff there personally went up to the gate of the home, asked Tyler to come out to him and arrested him, Boudreaux said.

Tyler currently is being held in the Adult Pre-trial Facility north or Visalia on $1.9 million bond. A hearing is scheduled for Friday morning on the DA’s motion to prohibit Tyler from using any money he may have gained in the reported fraud scheme to pay his bail.

More charges could be coming, said Boudreaux, noting that investigators have looked only at the last couple of years of the man’s business dealings, so far, and plans are to go further back to determine if additional crimes may have occurred.

He also told reporters that the Ag Crimes unit also is looking at the possibility that Tyler may have had accomplices, but nobody else has been charged.

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