Thursday, July 29, 2010

Datil Man Accused Of Cattle Rustling

By John Severance

A Datil man is accused of stealing 200 head of cattle from an Arizona ranch and moving them across two states to Texas and then selling them.
Jason Lon Kirby, 34, was indicted by an Arizona grand jury on charges of fraudulent schemes and artifices, trafficking in stolen property and two counts of theft after allegedly stealing 200 head of cattle.
According to New Mexico Livestock Inspector Tommy Padilla, Kirby was picked up in Commerce, Ga. on a warrant in early June after leaving Texas in May 2009. Kirby was arraigned June 18 in Pinal County, Arizona. There was a pretrial conference in Phoenix this week.
Padilla, who is based out of Quemado, said he had been tracking Kirby by following the whereabouts of his wife Toni, who had worked at New Mexico’s Natural Resources and Conservation Center.
“I helped Arizona. They had a warrant because 202 cattle were stolen,” Padilla said. “Basically, I did things on my end to facilitate his arrest. I had nothing to do with the arrest, but I made it easier for them to access him.
“Basically what I did was follow his wife,” Padilla said. “I put a GPS on her pickup when she lived in New Mexico. I also found out her maiden name so I tracked her on the Internet through social network sites. We found out her mom was moving to Commerce, Ga., north of Atlanta, and that is how we found him.
“I contacted the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and they picked him up. He (Kirby) waived extradition and they brought him back to Arizona.”
Zeke Austin, special investigations supervisor for the Arizona Department of Agriculture, told the Arizona Republic said an estimated $200,000 worth of cattle were involved, he said.
According to the Republic, early last year, Kirby entered into an agreement with Platt, of the Plateau Partnership, based in northern Arizona, to care for 500 cattle on a piece of land near Superior, Ariz., Austin said. Kirby apparently was paid $10,000 up front and was to be paid $10 per animal per month in a contract that covered from January to May of last year.
Austin said the proper procedure to move cattle across state borders is to have the animals inspected by a Department of Agriculture livestock official. After the cattle are inspected for ownership, the necessary forms are issued for transport. Then the livestock owner must get the cattle inspected for health by an accredited veterinarian and have the health inspection certificate with the haulers of the cattle.
According to the Republic, Austin said 19 of the cattle were sold to a cattle owner in May 2009, and 183 of them were sold to a cattle buyer in July 2009, both sales occurring in Texas. Austin said the latter sale happened at Friona Feedyard in the Texas panhandle.
"It is illegal to buy cattle in this state without an inspection and a bill of sale," Austin said. "But these cattle were sold and purchased in Texas."
According to the Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, Texas does not require proof of ownership to sell cattle.
The Republic reported that Platt said he got a call last summer from an employee of Kirby asking if Platt had OK'd the cattle moving to Texas.
"I didn't know anything about it, and I didn't approve the sale," Platt told the Republic. "How they were able to cross state lines is something of a mystery to us. My suspicion is that the inspector was inexperienced and was bamboozled by Kirby."
So how did Kirby get the cattle from Arizona to Texas?
Padilla has a theory.
“Arizona is pretty week when it comes to enforcement, it only has seven inspectors,” Padilla said. “They don’t have it together like New Mexico. We have 54 inspectors and we can control the movement of people transporting livestock by pulling people over and making them provide us with the proper paperwork.
“In this case, the inspector saw that the cattle belonged to Platt but Kirby was able to convince the inspector that he had the authority to transport them to Texas. The inspector never asked for a bill of sale or change of ownership.
“They loaded the cattle on the trucks and off they went. Someone dropped the ball in Arizona. It’s not that it can’t happen here but I have more faith in our system.”
Padilla said he has never seen as big an illegal transportation as the one that Kirby allegedly pulled off.
“Certainly, not on that scale,” Padilla said. “Where I lose cattle is during hunting season when hunters go in and shoot the cattle and butcher it. They will take the meat from one or two head of cattle
“Something like this has not happened in a long time. People know we are out there looking and stopping vehicles. It’s not that it can’t happen, but we slow it down a hell of a lot.”
Padilla said Friona Feedyard in Texas reimbursed Platt for the cattle with a check.
“It’s like insurance,” Padilla said. “They (Friona Feedyard) already had fed the cattle for 60 days and that is the way they wanted to go.”
Padilla said, as of now, there are no warrants yet in New Mexico for Kirby or his wife. But there likely will be one soon for Kirby.
“A gentleman approached me in Farmington last week and asked me if I knew Jason Kirby. He said he sent two horses to Datil for Kirby to ride last year and he never got the horses back,” Padilla said. “We will go after him for the horses. … We also would like to talk to his wife about the Arizona case.”
Padilla said Kirby’s wife no longer lives in Datil.
“We believe she is somewhere in Georgia along with her mother,” Padilla said.

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