Ottumwa Man Sentenced to Twenty-Four Months in Prison and Ordered to Pay $395,968.20 in Restitution for Cattle Fraud Scheme
DES MOINES, IA – On July 7, 2016, Jeffrey Lewis DeWitt, 28, of Ottumwa, Iowa, was sentenced by United States Senior District Court Judge Robert W. Pratt to 24 months in federal prison for wire fraud and conversion of mortgaged property, announced United States Attorney Kevin E. VanderSchel. DeWitt was ordered to serve three years of supervised release following his prison term, pay $200 to the Crime Victims’ Fund, and pay a total of $395,968.20 to eleven of his victims.
DeWitt pled guilty to the crimes on December 3, 2015. According to the plea agreement, DeWitt lied to induce a victim to obtain a bank loan, which DeWitt claimed would be used to purchase cattle that would be resold at a higher price, for a guaranteed profit. DeWitt sent the victim an email with details of the cattle he was purportedly purchasing, including the purchase price of the cattle, the resale price, the parties who would repurchase the cattle, and stated the cattle were guaranteed to be resold for a profit within three weeks. Unbeknownst to the victim, the details in the email were fictitious. DeWitt knew the victim needed the fabricated information to justify the loan to the bank, and the bank did lend the victim funds in reliance of DeWitt’s fabricated email. DeWitt used the funds to purchase cattle for himself, but only gave his victim a check that was returned for insufficient funds.
DeWitt also admitted in the plea agreement to selling livestock and hay he had mortgaged to the Farm Service Agency ("FSA") of the United States Department of Agriculture without authorization. He deposited the funds into accounts held by his parents to avoid detection by FSA. He admitted to selling over $200,000 of collateral without authorization.
The plea agreement also detailed a series of additional fraudulent transactions with as many as eleven individual victims. DeWitt admitted to using the proceeds of the unauthorized sales of collateral and the proceeds from the bank loan scheme to fund fraudulent cattle deals. He told other farmers he would purchase cattle, seed, and hay on their behalf, but did not do so, and at times produced false invoices and checks to support his claims.
This matter was investigated by the United States Department of Agriculture and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from the Davis and Wapello County Sheriffs’ Offices. The case was prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa.