Stratford, Texas – A Stratford man turned himself in to authorities Tuesday after he was charged with third degree felony livestock theft. Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association Special Ranger Ben Eggleston along with Oklahoma Dept. of Agriculture Agent Donnie Crain worked the investigation.
Aaron Smith, 40, allegedly stole 22 head of cattle on 3 different occasions dating back to Oct. 2011 from a rancher in the Texas Panhandle. The cattle were worth an estimated $20,000. Smith was an employee of the victim when the cattle were stolen.
The investigation began in March after Smith attempted to sell 14 head of cattle at the Texoma Livestock Auction in Texoma, Okla.
Investigations revealed that Smith had stolen cattle from the same victim on 2 previous occasions.
According to Eggleston, the cattle were located due to the watchful eye of the sale barn owner and workers. They noticed the cattle had fresh brands placed over existing brands, a crime in and of itself.
Eggleston traced back the original brand to the victim through TSCRA’s brand registration database. The 14 head of cattle were returned to the owner.
“This case is a perfect example of why it is important to always brand your cattle and register that brand with TSCRA,” said Eggleston. “Because these cattle were branded, we were able to confirm they were stolen and return them to the owner quickly.”
Smith is out on a $10,000 bond. If convicted he could face up to 10 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.
TSCRA would like to thank the Oklahoma Dept. of Agriculture and the Sherman County Sheriff’s Office for help with the investigation.