Ranch hand pleads guilty to stealing employer's cattle and other thefts

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KAMLOOPS - Selling 10 of his employer’s cows worth $35,000, wracking up a work-related credit card and stealing thousands of dollars worth of property could earn a ranch hand  fraudster federal jail time.

Jason John McDowell, 38, pleaded guilty to two counts of theft and one count of cattle theft in Kamloops Provincial Court today, Oct. 16.

In March 2015, McDowell stole 10 pregnant heifers from a farm in Hanna, Alta where he worked. After rustling the cows, McDowell posted an ad on Kijiji and eventually sold them to a buyer for $20,000. Crown prosecutor Will Burrows said McDowell arranged an offer with a second buyer who promised a $10,000 deposit and a further $90,000 in payment.

In addition to the livestock, McDowell stole a brand new sink and a gear puller from his employer. When police asked McDowell about the stolen cattle in their investigation he told them they likely died due to his employer’s negligence, Burrows said.

RCMP recovered the cattle from the buyer.

Before the Hanna charges, McDowell worked in Cache Creek as a ranch hand and lived on the farm property with his wife and six children. Burrows said McDowell used the company’s credit card to wrack up personal expenses which totalled around $6,000. Charges were laid after owners of Cache Creek Natural Beef discovered the stolen expenses and that McDowell had packed up all the furniture and items supplied in the ranch house worth about $10,000.

Burrows called the accused’s conduct "cold."

“He’s a man without conscience when it comes to stealing from people in a position of trust,” he said.

Burrows suggested a three-year jail sentence, noting McDowell’s criminal history which includes mostly fraud and theft convictions.

Genevieve Eliany, McDowell’s lawyer, said the accused has his ‘heart set’ on a two-year conditional sentence with electronic monitoring.

“This is his first time away from his six children; he’s quite devastated,” she said.

McDowell, who’s in custody, read a two-page letter to Judge Roy Dickey asking to be placed under house arrest.

“I understand what I did was hurtful,” he said. “By my actions, I can try to make it better.”

Dickey reserved his decision for October 19.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Glynn Brothen at gbrothen@infonews.ca, or call 250-319-7494. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

-This story was corrected at 3:01 p.m. Nov. 25, 2015 to change April 2014 to March 2015. 

Editor's Note in response to allegations from Vernon RCMP Supt. Jim McNamara
Editor’s note: • Watch shifts at the Vernon detachment have fallen to as low as three roadable officers. • The department suffers from chronic understaffing. • Sources, who we trust and who have knowledge of the s

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