VALDOSTA – An Alabama livestock broker admitted he conducted cattle deals but never paid farmers money they were due, instead diverting the profits for his personal use.

A Coolidge rancher was among his victims.

Tommy W. Baxley, 72, of Slocumb, Alabama, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Valdosta U.S. District Court to one count of theft of livestock.

Baxley met with a Coolidge rancher and wrote the rancher a check for $65,000 for cattle. The check bounced, said Capt. Tim Watkins, Thomas County Sheriff's Office chief investigator.

The sheriff's office contacted the U.S. Secret Service, and Baxley was arrested on local charges.

The bogus check was written in 2017.

"We started working it in 2018," Watkins said.

The investigator hopes Baxley will be sentenced to restitution and ordered to pay back his victims.

Baxley faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. A sentencing date has not been set.

Baxley was a registered livestock dealer doing business as Tri State Cattle Marketing. From September 2017, to February 2018, he brokered five separate feeder cattle deals with farmers in North Carolina, Mississippi and Georgia, according to the Middle District of Georgia U.S. Attorney's office.

Baxley never paid the farmers who sold him the cattle, stealing $414,265.45. He admitted to investigators that he did not pay the farmers for the cattle and instead used the money in hopes of making more money so he might ultimately pay for the cattle.

“Cattle rustlers and others who steal from our hard-working farmers and ranchers will face federal prosecution in the Middle District of Georgia,” said U.S. Attorney Charlie Peeler.

Baxley violated the trust of livestock farmers throughout the southeastern United Sates and knowingly brokered livestock transactions with no intentions of paying the farmers for their cattle, said Clint Bush, agent in charge of the Albany Secret Service office.

Thomas and Colquitt County sheriffs' offices and the Secret Service were assisted in the investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing Service Fair Trade Practices Program, Packers and Stockyards Division.

Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820 

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