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Iowa Man Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Pork Producers

A Rock Rapids, Iowa, man has pleaded guilty in federal court to manipulating weights of hogs in order to defraud pork producers.

According to the Sioux City Journal, Robert Bickerstaff, 52, entered his plea on Dec. 1 in U.S. District Court in Cedar Rapids to one count of wire fraud. He could face up to 20 years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000 and 3 years of supervised release following any imprisonment. A sentencing date is yet to be set. 

During the plea hearing, the U.S. Attorney’s office said Bickerstaff admitted he had worked as a regional manger for an Iowa livestock dealer between 2018 and 2021. As regional manager, he oversaw livestock buying stations in Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota. He also personally counted, classified and weighed swine at these stations, reports KIWA Radio.

Bickerstaff personally lowered the weights, numbers and classifications of hogs producers delivered to the dealer's buying stations, or directed others to fraudulently to do, said the U.S. Attorney's office. He also manipulated hog weights manually or by using a crowbar, paddle or other object to defeat the electronic scales on which the hogs were weighed and created fraudulent "sort sheets" and scale tickets for producers' hogs for transmission to the dealer's headquarters, reports the Sioux City Journal.

Sentencing before U.S. District Court Judge C.J. Williams will be set after a presentence report is prepared, said the article. Bickerstaff remains free on bond previously set pending sentencing. 

In 2022, Bickerstaff was recognized for going above and beyond expectations of a volunteer in his effort to promote pork at grilling events. As a former restaurant owner, the Lyon County Pork Producers say he demonstrated how important communicating, advertising and hard work are at every level of the farm-to-fork supply chain.

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