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Letters to the Editor

published: August 6th 2021

The following letter was sent to Southern Livestock Standard and represents the writer’s experience and opinion.

An open letter to various cattle producers and
breed association
    I am a purebred/commercial cattle operator. We have been in business for many years. We have had many one on one sales. Each has had its own set of circumstances. While each is different, you receive payment in cash, check, sometimes livestock or other goods and services. We have never had a problem with payment in over 69 years as a registered seller.
    This changed very recently for us. One of my employees was contacted about a recent ad we had placed. The ad group covers a roughly 150 mile area and is also online. The person made an inquiry, wanted five Angus bulls, wanted my bottom price and offered payment by cashier’s check. Again, each deal is different, but these were not unusual offers, negotiation, etc.
    The concern I had was the offer to buy with a cashier’s check (which I thought meant money in hand) AND a purposeful overpayment. This included instructions to cash the check and purchase postal money orders to send to the agent to pay the hauler. Obvious red flag!
    My purpose in sending you my story is to serve as a warning to your subscribers/members to be-come more aware that we can be targets just like the elderly uninformed. We are used to a handshake, a man’s word is his bond, etc., so we may be a bit too trusting. I was aware this became a little too different than usual and so lost nothing. I hope criminal prosecution can occur, but realistically it’s hard to know what is real in this sort of cyberworld! Please use this information in any way you think can help your folks!

    Yours truly,
    Joseph J. Skrivanek, III

    This is Joey Skrivanek. I operate a registered and commercial cattle operation in Caldwell, Texas. We produce registered Here-ford and Angus cattle, plus Brahman crosses of both. One of our primary sales areas is bulls. We do like most of you. We advertise in magazines, plus locally in American Classifieds/ Thrifty Nickel. We have three names and phone numbers listed. American Classi-fieds are online and use paper ads also.
    Recently, one of us got a text, asking if we still had the 20 Hereford and Angus bulls for sale. My guy referred him to me. As owner, I responded. I sent the contact a price list, plus some recent pictures. He asked my my lowest price on five Angus bulls. I sent that to him and he accepted. He said he would send me a cashier’s check and further details about delivery. I gave a ten-day time period for me to receive the money. A day after the deadline, I received a US Mail Priority Mail delivery, from another state. We have sold cattle out of state (as well as internationally), but usually within 150 miles of us. Again, not completely unusual.
    The cashier’s check was for $3,600 over the agreed sale amount. red flag! He said he was getting chemo treatment and would need me to pay the hauler directly. I was directed to cash the check, get postal money orders for $3600, send photo copies of them to him and he would let me know about arrangements. I took the check to the bank, and being a long time watcher of shows like NCIS 1, 2 and 3, and knowing there is not such thing as a “coincidence” and the bank thinking the same way, we deposited the check into a special account. I did not take cash to buy money orders.
    The bank indicated it would take seven-10 days to confirm if the check was “good”. I had always thought a cashier’s check was real money! No so! Even as a 32 year elected prosecutor, I have never had a “bad” Cashier’s Check! This one came back with this notation “fictitious and altered!”
    With the request for me to buy money orders for fees much higher than regular hauling would be was a major red flag, the thought that a cashier’s check could be bad did not occur to me. My bank had seen it before.
    Rely on your common sense. This proposed transaction, while it did have some things different about it, was not all that “strange”. Fortunately, there were no serious financial issues that would have forced me to try for the quick sale. I had time to rely on experience, local bank support, etc. We have been in the registered business for 69 years. We have sold over 3,600 bulls. Most transactions involve a personal check, a handshake, shut the trailer gateand follow-up: transfer of papers, thank you note, etc. Some pay with cash, some may trade other cattle, my brother took a mare and a foal in trade, etc. This deal only got “different” with the “overpayment”, a request to cash the casier’s check and buy $3,600 in money orders for hauling, and it right now!
    What to do now? No harm, no foul! Let it go? Prosecute? How? Local law enforcement? Special Rangers of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association? All are being considered, but we know evidence is limited. What we have will be used. Text messages can be helpful, at least in tracking intent. And, have money “wired” directly to your bank instead of a cashier’s check.
    My purpose in sharing is to inform you that yes, fraud exists in agriculture -- not just in big deal, Easterday (who ripped off millions) situations. And, if it looks too good to be true -- trust your instincts. That’s how we cattle folks have survived for generations!
    Joey Skrivanek

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