Iowa man gets six-month sentence for wire fraud scheme of pork producers

Scale tickets contained false information as actual hog weights were understated.

Ann Hess, Content Director

July 1, 2024

2 Min Read
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A Rock Rapids, Iowa man, who defrauded pork producers by manipulating numbers, quality classifications and weights of swine, has been sentenced to six months in a federal prison. Robert Bickerstaff, 52, was convicted of one count of wire fraud after he pleaded guilty last December in the U.S. District Court in Cedar Rapids.

The court recommended that Bickerstaff be designated to a Bureau of Prisons facility as close to his family as possible, appropriate to his security and custody classification needs. Upon release from imprisonment, Bickestaff will be on supervised release for a term of three years. He must pay  $5,089.56 in total criminal monetary penalties.

Beginning in the early 2000s, and continuing through March 2021, the Waucoma, Iowa-based livestock dealer directed managers and employees to falsely reduce and downgrade the numbers, quality classifications, and weights of swine that producers and sellers had delivered to the dealer’s buying stations throughout the Midwest. These practices largely concerned large, corporate producers who brought their hogs for sale.

In late 2017, the dealer entered a consent decision with the USDA with which the dealer agreed to cease and desist from falsifying account purchases provided to livestock sellers by recording false weights for swine and creating false scale tickets. The consent decision also required the dealer to transmit the weights to the producers’ statement of account and ensure producers were paid in accordance with the correct weight of the livestock delivered. The dealer also undertook remedial actions, including the installation of electronic scales at its livestock buying stations, to ensure fraudulent practices would not reoccur.

According to court documents, beginning in 2018 and continuing through March 2021, Bickerstaff directed managers and employees to use a crowbar or similar object to manipulate the scales where livestock producers’ swine were weighed at its buying stations. As a result, livestock producers’ scale tickets contained false information because actual hog weights were understated.

In 2021, concerned about a potential investigation into his conduct, Bickerstaff instructed staff to destroy anything with his name on it. On March 31, 2021, he resigned.

In February 2022, Bickerstaff was awarded the “Hog Wild” award from the Iowa Pork Producers Association for his role in promoting pork in Lyon County, Iowa. He also had prior experience as a commodities broker and former restaurant owner.

About the Author(s)

Ann Hess

Content Director, National Hog Farmer

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