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Botched brand helps authorities lasso Garvin County cattle rustlers

Thieves fail in attempt to use homemade branding irons to conceal theft in Garvin County.
BY PHILLIP O'CONNOR Published: April 19, 2013

McCoy faces one felony count of knowingly concealing stolen property and five felony counts of fraudulent branding. He is being held in lieu of $25,000 bail. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 55 years in prison and a $5,500 fine. He has previous felony convictions in Garvin County for burglary, possession of a stolen vehicle, assault on a police officer and has charges pending in two other cases.

Each year, about 1,000 head of cattle are reported stolen to the Law Enforcement Division of the state Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. Spring is an active season for the crime as cattle prices rise, chief agent Jerry Fowler said.

Illicitly luring cattle from a remote pasture isn't difficult, said Fowler, who has nine agents across the state to investigate livestock thefts.

“You can shake a feed sack and load up eight to 10 head of cattle and be gone before an owner even knows,” Fowler said.

When cattle thefts occur, authorities notify livestock markets in Oklahoma and surrounding states to be on the lookout, said Fowler, who recommends owners brand their cattle.

“A brand on livestock is like a tag on a car,” he said. “It gives us a chance to identify who the cattle belong to.”

About 40 percent of the cattle reported stolen to the Agriculture Department are recovered.

“If somebody steals your TV out the door, you're probably never going to see it again,” Fowler said. “But if somebody steals your cattle, chances are good we'll find them.”