July 13, 2018
Fraud Friday — All Hat, No Cattle in $5.8 Million Fraud
By Bob Coleman
Editor, Fraud Friday
A North Texas man who claimed he was a cattle rancher appears to have misled banks to borrower millions against cows he did not own. The investigation which began in March 2017, resulted in the arrest and indictment of Howard Lee Hinkle, 67, of Wichita Falls.
Banks became suspicious of Hinkle after he defaulted on several loans totaling $5.8 million. When bank officials came to deliver a court order allowing them to take possession of the 8,000 cows he leveraged as collateral against the loans, they were surprised to find they were not able to locate any of the yearling cattle.
When applying for the loans, Hinkle allegedly claimed that he owned thousands of head of beef, scattered across ten counties in Texas and Oklahoma.
The banks contacted the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TRCSA) to hire Special Rangers John Bradshaw and Troy McKinney to investigate the missing cattle.
According to a press release from the TSCRA, after interviewing a number witnesses and collecting evidence, the rangers determined that the cattle claimed as collateral by Hinkle did exist, however, they did not legally belong to him.
Hinkle allegedly convinced the bank to provide loans by presenting fraudulent documentation on cattle that belonged to various other ranchers.
The Special Rangers identified the properties and cattle listed on loan documents as not belonging to Hinkle and presented their evidence to the Denton County District Attorney’s Office.
Hinkle was arrested on June 27, 2018, for theft over $200,000, and booked into the Wichita County Jail. He has been released on bond pending trial.
Bradshaw said it is common for cattle ranchers to borrower money for the purchase of cows, equipment, and property. However, when criminals engage in the type of fraud alleged in this case, it makes it more difficult for legitimate cattle ranchers to obtain the credit they rely on to run and expand their businesses.
As a demonstration of just how serious cattle fraud is in Texas, Hinkle could be spending the rest of his life in prison. If convicted, he is facing a life sentence, along with being ordered to pay thousands in fines and restitution.
“Life in prison is a big price to pay, it’s not worth it,” said Bradshaw. “Fraud and deception rarely work for very long, and eventually justice will prevail.”