A rancher in in South Dakota has been sentenced to 46 months in prison and must pay back cattle producers after lying about grazing he could offer.
Keith Hagen from Sisseton, S.D., was found guilty on eight counts of fraud by a federal jury on June 28. He was sentenced by a federal court in Aberdeen on Oct. 16.
In addition to serving nearly four years in prison, Hagen was ordered to pay $236,000 in restitution to the ranchers he scammed and $800 to pay a special assessment. Following serving the prison sentence Hagen will serve three years of supervised release.
Hagen’s ex-wife, Amanda Holy Bull, entered a plea to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud. She is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 30.
In 2007, Hagen and Holy Bull created Holy Bull Cattle Co. where they offered custom grazing through land leased from the Bureau of Indian Affairs on the Lake Traverse Indian Reservation.
From 2012-14 the couple conducted fraudulent activity by offering grazing for land they did not have leased.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Ann Hoffman, both Hagen and Holy Bull were paid in advance for their grazing services. Some customers were able to graze for part of a season.
In one instance Hagen had rented just 40 acres in 2014, which was only enough to graze six cow-calf pairs. That year Hagen entered contracts for 300 cow-calf pairs.
“He didn’t have enough land and he knew it,” Hoffman says.
Cattle owners tied up in the scheme had to change their management strategies either selling cattle, finding replacement pasture or dry-lotting cows.
Defense attorney Matt Powers requested in-home confinement for Hagen so he could start making money to pay restitutions. The request was denied.
Powers did share that Hagen admits to owing money to the affected cattle producers, but doesn’t believe he committed fraud.
“Justice in this case for the ranchers is to start getting their money back,” Powers says.