Cattle rustling surges across Texas in bad economy

Hard times have translated into an upsurge of rustling in cattle country, with well over twice as many animals stolen last year in Texas and Oklahoma, the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association said Friday.

The cause of the increase? "The economy, the economy," said Larry Gray, the association’s law enforcement director. "So many are out of jobs. And desperate people do desperate things."

The industry group, whose 132nd annual convention began Friday in Fort Worth and continues through Sunday, received reports that 6,404 cattle were stolen or missing in 2008, up from 2,400 the year before.

A number of cases were concentrated in the Texas Panhandle, said Gray, who oversees 28 special rangers and 70 sale-barn brand inspectors for the association.

Some cases were white-collar frauds involving $1 million worth of livestock or more, he said. In some instances, mortgaged cattle were illegally sold or animals were taken out of trust ownership and marketed.

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