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Clever man pleads guilty to cattle theft fraud

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A ranch hand from Clever pleaded guilty last week in federal court to participation in a bank fraud scheme related to a false claim of cattle theft.
Jesse D. Rice admitted to falsely reporting to law enforcement that 53 head of cattle had been stolen from Poco Cala Ranch, where he worked in Clever. According to the federal indictment, Rice knew that those cattle, which had been pledged as collateral on a Liberty Bank line of credit, had been sold without the bank's permission.
When the bank planned to conduct an inspection of the cattle, Rice told the Christian County Sheriff's Office that the cattle had been stolen and prepared and signed a false written statement describing the theft. Rice also provided on-camera interviews with two local TV stations repeating the false allegations.
The ranch is owned by Lonnie Littles and his wife, Christian County Assessor Sandra Bryant-Littles. Lonnie Littles was also charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud for asking Rice to file the false reports. Bryant-Littles was not charged in this case, but she was indicted in October on charges of mail fraud for failing to assess her own property for personal property taxes. She has pleaded not guilty to those charges.
Under federal statute, Rice is subject to up to 30 years in prison without parole, plus a fine of up to $1 million.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Mohlhenrich and was investigated by Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation and the state Rural Crimes Investigative Unit.[[In-content Ad]]

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