Auction set for cattle thief’s restitution

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SALEM, Ohio – Cattle thief Christopher Gray was indicted for theft in excess of $100,000 by a grand jury in Belmont County April 3.

A pretrial is scheduled for April 19, according to Helen Yonak, assistant prosecutor for the county. It’s likely Gray will proceed to trial after that, Yonak said.

While seeing Gray brought to justice is a relief for six county producers affected by deals gone awry, there’s still empty spaces in their pocketbooks.

Auction set. Gray’s assets will be liquidated at auction April 27 in Barnesville, Ohio, to recoup lost money for farmers scammed earlier this year.

Items listed for sale include a 2000 Ford F-350 XLT pickup truck, 1998 Pontiac Trans Am, and three semi tractors and livestock trailers. Each of the vehicles was used by Gray during a spree of fraudulent cattle purchases in Belmont, Harrison and Trumbull counties in January and February.

“I don’t think the sale will bring the full amount, but what’s still missing can hopefully be picked up on the criminal side,” said Thomas Jefferis, a Belmont County cattleman who lost stock to Gray.

“I’ve worked hard in going after this guy and I’m going in with the attitude to get every dime back,” he said.

Gray has already made some restitution from losses in a civil case, Yonak said.

This time around. According to Belmont County Sheriff’s Detective Bart Giesey, Gray, 26, allegedly presented himself as a livestock dealer to cattle owners, offering better-than-market prices to the owners and offering to haul the cattle to an area livestock auction and sell them on the owners’ behalf.

During his recent spree, he was using the alias of Lee Genovese and Genovese Trucking and Livestock Company.

Gray was arrested by the Lake County Sheriff’s Department Feb. 6 during a routine traffic stop.

The Belmont County theft charge includes 253 head of cattle and more than $100,000. The charge carries a maximum sentence of five years’ incarceration.

Gray was previously found guilty in 1999 and served 17 months for fraud, passing bad checks and theft related to similar cattle deals. In his previous conviction, farmers were never paid, or received bad checks or checks drawn on closed accounts.

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