LUBBOCK, Texas — An East Texas man with a prolific cattle rustling history spanning more than a decade has been sentenced to 99 years in prison for swindling bovines from a Mississippi rancher.
Carl Wade Curry, 44 from Athens was accused of stealing 400 head of cattle worth more than $200,000 last year.
District Attorney Staley Heatly says Curry placed an order with a Mississippi man using a fake name and cattle company in Vernon, where the owner shipped the cattle. The owner contacted authorities when he didn't receive payment.
A jury in Hardeman County took less than 30 minutes to both convict and sentence Curry on Wednesday evening. In the deal Curry used the name Earnest Jackson.
"He was going to mail me a check and he didn't," rancher David Sanders of Starkville, Miss., said. "Then he was going to Federal Express it to me. Didn't happen."
Sanders had already shipped the cattle to a non-existent address in Hardeman County. When Sanders didn't get paid he called the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. A special ranger with the association located the animals before they were sold.
"They really put their noses to the grindstone and got this guy good," Sanders said.
Testimony at Curry's trial revealed he had stolen 2,097 head of cattle worth nearly $1 million since 2007, Heatly said.
Curry represented himself at the trial but had stand-by counsel by John Weigel, who did not return a call for comment Thursday.
In April, Curry was sentenced to 20 years in a cattle rustling case in Smith County in East Texas and faces more charges there and in Louisiana, Hardeman County District Attorney Staley Heatly said Thursday.
"He is definitely" a serial cattle rustler, Heatly said. "Going back to the late 90s when he was convicted of bank fraud."
That case involved banks, feedlot owners and ranchers, Heatly said.
In a plea deal with federal prosecutors in Lubbock in 2000, Curry was ordered to pay restitution of $730,000, Heatly said. He served 18 months in prison and was released from probation of five years in September 2006 — still owing $680,000 in restitution.
It didn't take long for Curry to return to his old ways, Heatly said.
"All these started in '07," he said of the two charges for which he's already been convicted on and the pending cases.
One of his victims in the federal case, Jason Forester of 4F Cattle Co. in the East Texas town of Larue, said Curry wrote hot checks totaling about $94,000 for cattle he bought. The two men lived near one another growing up, and went to high school and college together.
Curry wanted to smooth talk people but lacked the skill, Forester said, who works in an industry where trust is currency and deals are sometimes sealed by handshakes.
"I always knew he wanted to be a big shot," he said. "And he wasn't capable. He thought he was capable but he wasn't. He's right where he needs to be now."
Sanders said the thefts were "mighty alarming," but he feels fortunate.
"I feel for the victims that didn't get anything," he said.