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Cody Easterday is in the federal pen after one of the largest cattle swindles in U.S. history

A man walks with his head down in Yakima, Washington after his sentencing hearing.
Megan Farmer
Cody Easterday walks with family members from the Federal Courthouse on South Third Street after being sentenced to 11 years, on Tuesday, October 4, 2022, in Yakima.

Northwest rancher Cody Easterday recently turned himself in to a minimum security prison camp at Lompoc just south of Santa Maria, California. Easterday carried out one of the largest cattle swindles in U.S. history, from near Pasco, in Washington state.

The cowboy, Cody Easterday, had received several deferments of his sentence because of a complicated bankruptcy case embroiled in federal court. But now, he’s in.

Lompoc federal penitentiary has a federal prison camp next to it, where Easterday is housed. Those camps have dormitory housing and limited or no perimeter fencing. The camps are work and program-oriented. According to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons website, the camps provide inmate labor to the main institution and to off-site work programs.

It’s likely that Easterday flew down to California in a private jet. Public flight records show the plane leaving Pasco airport Friday, and arriving in Santa Maria, California. The plane used to be owned by Easterday Farms, but now a LLC called Fly Lo out of North Carolina, owns the craft.

Easterday is set to spend as much as 11 years in prison. He pled guilty to a count of wire fraud.

Easterday swindled Tyson Fresh Meats and another company out of 265,000 cattle for nearly a quarter of a billion dollars by inventing a ghost herd. He carried out the whole scam with fake invoices and paper over years. So far, no other players have been charged.

Tyson passed on providing an interview or any comment on Easterday’s incarceration.

As part of his defense, Easterday also admitted to having a gambling habit in court documents – where he lost millions of dollars on the beef futures market.

Hear the larger story of the Easterday swindle in the new podcast, “Ghost Herd” by KUOW and Northwest Public Broadcasting. The first episode drops January 10th, wherever you get your podcasts. 

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.