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Iowa man pleads guilty to wire fraud scheme of pork producers

Livestock producers’ scale tickets contained false information because actual hog weights were understated.

Ann Hess

December 7, 2023

2 Min Read
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A Rock Rapids, Iowa man, who defrauded livestock producers by manipulating numbers, quality classifications and weights of swine, has pled guilty to one count of wire fraud. In addition to working for a livestock dealer and a packer, Robert Bickerstaff, 52, was a pork producer himself.

Bickerstaff entered his plea in the U.S. District Court in Cedar Rapids on Dec. 1, and could now face a maximum 20-year sentence without the possibility of parole, fines up to $250,000, and a term up to three years of supervised release following any imprisonment. Sentencing will be held after a presentence report is prepared.

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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