Rigby ranchers accused of theft: “We’re not crooks”
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RIGBY — Two ranchers accused of felony grand theft say the allegations against them are false.
Court documents show that Heath and Jared Lewis with Double L Farms Inc. in Rigby each have been charged with felonies for allegedly rebranding cattle and removing ear tags from cows that didn’t belong to them.
But, in an interview with EastIdahoNews.com, Heath Lewis says the charges against them are the result of a misunderstanding.
“We are not denying that one of the cows were rebranded, but it was only one,” Lewis said. “It’s not even a question because it happened. But did we try to steal it? Kill it? Butcher it? Sell it? No. We aren’t felons or crooks. We didn’t criminally try to take their cows.”
Court documents show that in August, an unidentified person observed what he believed to be cattle from Ririe-based Foster Land & Cattle Co. mixed in with herd cattle from Double L Farms on land the Lewises were renting in the Palisades area.
Brand inspectors were called in to look into the case. The investigative report shows inspectors found several cows were rebranded or had ear tags removed.
Lewis maintains it was a single cow.
“The Fosters and us winter our cows side by side to each other. These kinds of things happen when you run cows next to each other. And maybe one slips through, maybe an employee doesn’t know better, but had that cow gone to get butchered, we would have noticed, and returned it,” Lewis said.
Speaking in general terms, Boise-based State Brand Inspector Larry A. Hayhurst said rebranding mistakes do happen.
“Just because someone rebrands a cow or two doesn’t mean they were trying to steal,” he said. “This legitimately happens all the time. Most of the time it’s (from) hired hands not paying attention … they just start throwing brands on everything.”
The Lewis brothers say they were surprised that charges were filed, and they have hired an attorney to fight the case.
“We have never branded one of their cows on purpose before, we have never tried to steal before, so I don’t know why they are coming after us,” Lewis said. “We gave them permission to go through our cows. We trusted that they would go get anything that belonged to them. We cooperated in every way possible to get their cows back.”
Jared and Heath Lewis were not arrested on the charges, but they are due in court in Jefferson County for a preliminary hearing Feb. 25.
EastIdahoNews.com reached out to Idaho State Police Brand Inspector Kirk Christensen, who has been looking into the case, but he declined to comment because it is an active investigation.