Patrick Charles Thomas Pleads Guilty in U.S. Federal Court
The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Great Falls, on July 15, 2013, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Strong, PATRICK CHARLES THOMAS, a 55-year-old resident of Cut Bank, pled guilty to (2) counts of conversion of secured property. Sentencing has been set for October 21, 2013. He is currently released on special conditions.
In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Carl E. Rostad, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
THOMAS was a rancher/farmer near Cut Bank who obtained, over the years, numerous loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Farm Services Agency (FSA). As part of that lending and borrowing relationship, THOMAS pledged as collateral all livestock, crops, and personal property.
Beginning in or before June of 2006, THOMAS began to sell off hay, grass (grazing), cattle, equipment, and other pledged assets without notifying the FSA of the transactions or the income generated from the sale of those assets.
On December 18, 2008, THOMAS submitted a balance sheet to support his application for financing through FSA showing he had 225 bred cows which would be used as collateral. The FSA had concerns regarding the actual number of cows. They had not been able to get an actual count of the cattle for some time and when chattel inspections had been completed it did not appear that there were as many cattle as they thought should be there. FSA conducted a count December 29, 2008, and located 169 head. When questioned about the discrepancy and the missing 59 head of cows, THOMAS stated they had gone down into Flat Coulee on his neighbor's place and he couldn't get them up.
On March 2, 2009, THOMAS was approved for a $65,000 annual operating loan from FSA which also rescheduled THOMAS's existing FSA loans according to DALR$ (FSA's loan servicing program). The projections used were based, in material part, on the cow numbers shown on the Security Agreement dated December 19, 2008, which showed 225 head of cows and 11 bulls.
On March 31, 2009, FSA performed a chattel inspection and recorded approximately 180 head of cows. Later that year, in October 2009, without notifying or receiving the approval of the FSA, THOMAS sold 105 calves to a Nebraska-based cattle buyer without disclosing to the buyer that the calves were pledged as security to the FSA. THOMAS concealed the sale from the FSA and converted the proceeds - $49,776 - to his own use and benefit.
On February 22, 2010, FSA went to THOMAS's ranch to do a chattel inspection and cattle count for both the Farm Loan Program and for THOMAS's daughter's 2009 LIP claim. FSA counted 99 cows and 3 yearlings, of which 62 were THOMAS's and 6 of which belonged to his daughter. FSA representatives could not read the brand on the remaining 33 head.
On April 22, 2010, FSA and representatives of the Montana Department of Livestock went to THOMAS's ranch to count the cattle. The final tally that day was 81 head of cows, of which 70 had THOMAS's brand, and 11 had other family member's brands. There were also 53 head of unbranded calves. The numbers were significantly less than what FSA had collateralized - or believed to have collateralized on the basis of THOMAS's representations.
Investigation established that between June 11, 2006, and July 13, 2011, THOMAS disposed of and sold at least $162,865.36 in cattle, hay, equipment and other property he had pledged as a collateral to obtain FSA loans, and in which the FSA had a security interest, without the knowledge or approval of the FSA.
THOMAS faces possible penalties of 5 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and 3 years supervised release on each count.
The investigation was conducted by the / a cooperative effort between the U.S. Department of Agriculture - Office of Inspector General.