March 18, 2009
Fayette, Mo. - A judge has ordered five operators of a Howard County livestock sales company that defrauded cattle farmers to pay $804,000 in restitution and penalties and never again engage in the selling of cattle in Missouri, Attorney General Chris Koster announced today. The verdict came after a civil trial on charges brought by the Attorney General's Office against Mitchell J. Leonard, Peggy Morrow, Lance Neff, Robert Simmons and Jason Hackman.
Former Attorney General Jay Nixon filed the civil case in June of 2006. The charges alleged at the time that the defendants charged farmers from Missouri and other states more than $1 million for cattle that were promised to be high-quality and, in many cases, bred cows (pregnant). In reality, the farmers were given cattle that were inferior quality, different breeds, thinner and in some cases sick and were not bred cows.
On Mar. 16, Chariton County Associate Circuit Judge Michael L. Midyette, who heard the case in a bench trial last summer, signed a 93-page verdict, ordering the defendants to:
"This puts an end to a massive fraudulent scheme perpetrated on livestock farmers here in Missouri and in some of our neighboring states," Koster said. "Our first priority was to try to restore some of the losses suffered by these farmers, then put these defendants out of the livestock business for good."
The Attorney General's Office also filed criminal consumer fraud charges against Morrow, Hackman and Simmons. All three were convicted in 2007.