Lyon County Man Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud in Scheme to Defraud Midwest Livestock Producers
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Iowa
Created Fraudulent Documents and Manipulated Scales Between 2018 and 2021
A Lyon County man who defrauded pork producers while working as the regional manager of an Iowa livestock dealer pled guilty on December 1, 2023, in federal court in Cedar Rapids. Robert Harry Bickerstaff, age 52, from Rock Rapids, Iowa, was convicted of one count of wire fraud.
At the plea hearing and in his plea agreement, Bickerstaff admitted that he had worked as a regional manager for an Iowa livestock dealer between 2018 and 2021. As regional manager, Bickerstaff oversaw livestock buying stations in Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota. From time to time, Bickerstaff also personally counted, classified, and weighed swine at these stations.
Bickerstaff admitted he participated in a scheme to defraud livestock producers personally and by directing others to (1) falsely and fraudulently lower the weights and reduce the numbers and classifications of swine that producers and sellers had delivered to the dealer at its buying stations; (2) manipulate the weights of swine either manually or using a crowbar, paddle, or other similar object, and thus defeat the electronic scales on which livestock producers’ swine was weighed at his buying stations; and (3) create fraudulent “sort sheets” and scale tickets containing false numbers, classifications, and weights of producers’ swine for transmission to the dealer’s headquarters in Waucoma, Iowa. Finally, concerned about a potential investigation into his conduct in early 2021, Bickerstaff instructed others to destroy anything with his name on it.
In addition to working for the livestock dealer, Bickerstaff was a pork producer himself. In February 2022, Bickerstaff won a “Hog Wild” award from a statewide pork producers’ association for his role in promoting pork in Lyon County, Iowa.
Sentencing before United States District Court Judge C.J. Williams will be set after a presentence report is prepared. Bickerstaff remains free on bond previously set pending sentencing. Bickerstaff faces a possible maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and 3 years of supervised release following any imprisonment.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Timothy L. Vavricek and was investigated by the United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Court file information at https://ecf.iand.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/login.pl.
The case file number is 23-CR-2026.
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Updated December 11, 2023