Thursday, May 21, 2009
By SUE WATSON
An intensive investigation of several weeks has resulted in recovery of two tractor-trailer loads of bagged animal feed thought to be stolen from Cargill Animal Nutrition in Marshall County, according to Sheriff Kenny Dickerson.
He expects there could be as many as five to eight arrests when the investigation by his department, the Memphis Police Department, and state and federal agencies is concluded.
Dickerson said investigators with Cargill believe the company has been losing product by theft from the plant for 12 to 14 months and that as much as $200,000 worth of feed has been stolen from the plant located on Highway 178 east of Byhalia. The plant has been in operation several years.
Cargill suspected the theft when the amount of raw materials brought into the plant to make feed did not balance out with the amount of finished product bagged and shipped to legitimate distributors.
With the investigation ongoing, between 48 to 60 tons of feed has been recovered from Hall’s Feed Supply in Memphis, Tenn., Dickerson said. Much of that recovered from Hall’s was cattle feed. Some feeds have been dog food. And all that has left the plant was sacked and ready to be distributed to stores.
“We know that between 10 to 15 trailer loads - 24 tons of sacked feed - has left the plant illegally,” Dickerson said. “We recovered two or more trailer loads Wednesday, May 13.”
He said a driver of the 18-wheeler would come and get a loaded trailer of feed and carry it to Memphis and it would be unloaded the same night and the empty trailer would be returned and packed out again for legal shipments the next morning.
Investigators believe the driver who delivered the trailer loads to Memphis was being paid cash and that one or more employees at the plant was receiving cash to keep quiet and assist with the illegal shipments.
“We also recovered about 53 bags of feed from a local site here in Holly Springs,” the sheriff said.
This feed and some other instances of feed being removed by employees at the plant and sold to the public at a very reduced price are likely to be included in the final prosecution of the case, he said.
At least one other incident where an employee at Cargill has sold feed from the plant to the public is also under investigation, he said.
State and Federal law officers from Tennessee and Memphis met with Dickerson Thursday to work out how the case will be handled. Dickerson said he expects the federal courts to prosecute the case because of the high value of the property taken and because it was shipped across state lines.
He said the driver of the 18-wheeler “without a doubt” will be charged, as well as employees at Cargill who hooked the driver up with trailers loaded with feed.
“The driver got cash for each load and employees at Cargill got cash for their participation,” he said.
Dickerson said the estimated value of stolen feed is conservative.
“There is no telling how much has left the plant in smaller quantities,” he said. “For the last eight to 12 weeks in a row an entire trailer load of feed was stolen and taken to Memphis.”
Majors Kelly McMillan and David Cook with the sheriff’s department assisted in the investigation locally.
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