Easterday operations 4

The former Easterday Ranches North Lot cattle feedlot near Eltopia, Washington. Tyson Fresh Meats is trying to acquire the lot, which convicted fraudster Cody Easterday used to own.

KENNEWICK — Tyson Fresh Meats may have suffered a blow Wednesday, Aug. 18, in its effort to take from a key competitor a strategically located cattle feedlot formerly owned by convicted fraudster Cody Easterday.

Alan Kornfeld, an attorney for bankrupt Easterday Ranches, disputed Tyson’s claim that it was blindsided in January when Cody Easterday sold the North Lot to Agri Beef for $16 million.

Tyson had made a “soft, no-cash” $10 million offer for the lot, Kornfeld said, undermining Tyson’s claim that Easterday never gave it a chance to top Agri Beef.

“The debtors vehemently dispute that Tyson did not have an opportunity to bid,” Kornfeld said.

Tyson says it’s now willing to pay $25 million for the lot and has asked U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Whitman Holt in Yakima to give it standing to challenge the sale to Agri Beef on behalf of Easterday’s creditors.

In court filings, Tyson said the $16 million paid by Agri Beef was “woefully inadequate.” It didn’t mention a $10 million offer.

Holt, who has yet to rule on Tyson’s motion, said Tyson’s account bears on whether he will allow the company to intervene in the bankruptcy proceedings.

“If what you (Kornfeld) just said is accurate, that in January of 2021 there was a $10 million offer from Tyson, I think that’s highly germane to the standing issue because the narrative in (Tyson’s) motion is deeply inconsistent with that,” Holt said.

Tyson’s lawyer did not respond to Kornfeld at the hearing, conducted by phone. Efforts to obtain comment from Tyson on Aug. 18 were unsuccessful.

Cody Easterday, 50, is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 5 for defrauding Tyson out of $233 million. He also defrauded another company of $11 million by billing for cattle he never actually bought or fed.

Tyson uncovered the scheme in December and talked to Easterday about buying his cattle feeding operation to start making restitution, according to court records. Tyson said it learned about the sale to Agri Beef too late to go to court to stop it.

Shortly after the sale, Easterday declared bankruptcy. In March, he pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud.

After Agri Beef bought the feedlot for $16 million, an appraiser valued it at only $9 million. Tyson claims the appraisal was flawed.

Holt remarked that the difference between the sale price and appraisal “sure suggests something is wrong with that appraisal.”

Kornfeld said the appraisal was based on the operation’s size and did not take into account its closeness to Tyson and Agri Beef plants.

“Tyson’s offer was right where the appraiser came out,” Kornfeld said.

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