Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Eastern Livestock bankruptcy trustee files what he says will be only the first of several lawsuits

A lawsuit filed by a federal bankruptcy trustee alleges that an Eastern Livestock Co. branch manager deposited $1.24 million in checks in the days immediately following a bank's hold on the company's accounts. "According to court documents, Eastern Livestock employees signed over 28 checks to Lexington, Ky., branch manager Willie Downs instead of depositing them in the Fifth Third Bank account. Downs then endorsed and deposited the checks," Katie Micik of DTN reports. Trustee Jim Knauer said about half the checks cleared; he said many of those who wrote them probably filed stop-payment notices after word spread that Eastern had issued bad checks to cattle producers.

"Anytime you have a company that owes creditors and you take money from the company to pay someone else, that's fraud," Knauer told DTN. "That's especially true when the company is insolvent and doesn't have assets left to pay everyone." Knauer said the lawsuit is the first of several he is planning to file.

Fifth Third froze Eastern's accounts Nov. 2 "after uncovering an alleged check kiting scheme and as much as $2.5 billion in fictitious sales to related entities," and Knauer's investigation revealed the company had been writing checks for fictitious transactions since at least 2008, Micik reports. A lawsuit in Cincinnati alleges that Downs converted the checks criminally, and under Indiana law, the trustee could be entitled to three times the monetary damages, about $3.73 million -- in addition to recovering the $1.2 million plus interest," Micik writes. (Read more)

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