ST. CLAIRSVILLE, Ohio – The Belmont County Sheriff’s Office is seeking Christopher L. Gray for questioning related to a spree of fraudulent cattle purchases in southeastern Ohio.
Gray was found guilty in 1999 and served 17 months for fraud, passing bad checks and theft related to similar cattle deals.
A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Gray on third-degree felony charges of fraud and passing bad checks. He has allegedly swindled farmers out of 253 head of cattle in Belmont County alone.
The second warrant was issued by the state Adult Parole Authority for parole violations.
The scam. According to Belmont County Sheriff’s Detective Bart Giesey, Gray, 26, allegedly presents himself as a livestock dealer to cattle owners, claiming to be buying for a feedlot in Indiana or “buying for McDonalds.” He offers to haul the cattle to an area livestock auction and sell them on the owners’ behalf.
Gray’s latest aliases are Lee Genovese and Genovese Trucking and Livestock Company, Giesey said.
Gray, whose location is currently unknown, frequently uses “Farm and Dairy” classified advertisements to locate individuals who have dairy or beef cattle to sell, and offers a better-than-market price to livestock owners.
In his previous conviction, farmers were never paid, or received bad checks or checks drawn on closed accounts. Similar charges have been made in the current deals, which have been made over the last three weeks. Most of the cattle have been sold at the Mercer (Pa.) Livestock Auction, which is cooperating with authorities.
Authorities have frozen at least two bank accounts, although the funds are not sufficient to cover the more than $140,000 losses incurred in Belmont County alone.
Bogus bond. Giesey said Gray carries a bogus $2 million livestock dealer’s bond certificate from the firm of Collinsworth, Alter, Nielsen, Fowler & Dowling Inc., 3095 Diehl South Road, Painesville, Ohio.
There is a company by that name, but the Florida-based firm handles bonding and insurance for the construction industry.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture, which licenses livestock dealers, is also cooperating with the investigation.
Harrison County. Gray is also facing charges in Harrison County, where he, accompanied by another male and a teen-age boy, allegedly purchased 38 head of cattle from Kabria and William Dye of Scio for $45,600. The three checks Gray gave the Dyes, written on a Sky Bank account, were later determined to be bad due to nonsufficient funds, according to a Harrison County Sheriff’s report.
Gray was last known to drive a black late model Ford dually pick-up, hauling a cattle trailer.
Giesey said he is following a lead that Gray most recently backtracked to a Lake County address in northern Ohio, removed a car from that location and then bought a new Corvette.
Giesey and West Virginia authorities followed leads Feb. 1 to Wellsburg, W.Va., where Gray was believed to be completing another livestock deal, however Gray did not make contact with the seller at the scheduled time.
During his 1998 and 1999 deals that stretched from Noble County, Ohio, to Lawrence County, Pa., Gray used the name Parkman Packing Co., his own name; Trumbull Livestock Company; C.J. Trumbull Livestock Co. Inc.; C.J. Trumbull Livestock Exchange Co.; Gratuli (which uses the first three letters of his name and the first four letters of the surname of a deceased grandfather); Louis Tulipano; Baumont Farms; Roy Gardner or Roy Gardner Co.; and Christopher Gardner.
He was found guilty of theft and passing bad checks in July 1999, and a Noble County court sentenced him to 17 months in prison. He was released in December 2000.