PAINESVILLE, Ohio – The Lake County Sheriff’s Department arrested Christopher L. Gray, 26, late Feb. 6 during a routine traffic stop. He is wanted on charges of theft in Belmont County, Harrison County and Trumbull County related to cattle purchases.
Gray is also being held on state parole violation charges.
“He has admitted to everything,” said Belmont County Sheriff’s Detective Bart Giesey, who added that Ohio Department of Agriculture investigators, the FBI, and the police departments in Niles and Austintown, as well as the Lake and Geauga county sheriffs’ departments, cooperated in the investigation and subsequent arrest.
Assets seized. Giesey said the sheriff’s department is seizing any and all assets for possible restitution to cattle owners who did not get paid after selling livestock to Gray. Giesey said they are aware of seven, and possibly, eight vehicles ranging from a 1987 Fiero and two 1987 Peterbilt tractors to a 1994 livestock trailer that will be liquidated to distribute to owners.
At the time of his arrest, Gray was carrying $11,000 in cash, Giesey said, including $3,000 that he allegedly removed from a brother’s college fund.
Giesey speculates that Gray was leaving the area at the time of his arrest because he had cleaned out the apartment where he was staying. “We think we got him on the way out.”
Gray presents 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 often used “Farm and Dairy” classified ads to locate individuals who have dairy or beef cattle to sell.
He was previously convicted of fraud, passing bad checks and theft related to similar cattle deals in 1999. He served 17 months in jail and was released in December 2000.
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.
“This guy was really slick; he really knew the business,” Giesey said, adding that Gray even had a fake bond certificate that he printed from his computer.
Most of the alleged thefts occurred since the first of the year.