The leader of a confessed cattle theft ring was handed four indictments by an Oklahoma multi-county grand jury Thursday. Former Lincoln County District Judge Craig Key, 48, of Chandler, Okla., was charged with 26 felony charges including embezzlement and cattle theft. Key was handed five indictment charges in April and May 2013. The indictments were sealed until Thursday.According to Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association Special Ranger Kent Dowell, who lead the investigation into the cattle theft charges, in October 2012, 11 head of cattle were allegedly stolen from a northern Lincoln County rancher at the direction of Key. Further investigations by Dowell revealed that Key was involved in numerous fraud and embezzlement schemes.
According to the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office, who investigated the suspect on other charges, Key, a former attorney, allegedly embezzled more than $475,000 from his clients.
Four other defendants were also charged in connection with these crimes.
“This is very complex investigation involving multiple suspects and multiple crimes,” said Dowell. “At the end of the day, though, this investigation started with a rancher noticing his cattle were missing, and thankfully, we were able to locate those stolen cattle and return them back to the owner.”
The grand jury will reconvene August 20-22 to hear more witness statements. Dowell says he expects more indictments to be handed down, including charges for racketeering.
Key bonded out of the Lincoln County Jail Friday.
TSCRA would like to thank Attorney General Investigator David Driscoll for his hard work on this investigation.
TSCRA has 29 special rangers stationed strategically throughout Texas and Oklahoma who have in-depth knowledge of the cattle industry and are trained in all facets of law enforcement. All are commissioned as Special Rangers by the Texas Department of Public Safety and/or the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.
TSCRA is a 136 year-old trade association and is the largest and oldest livestock organization based in Texas. TSCRA has more than 16,000 beef cattle operations, ranching families and businesses as members. These members represent approximately 50,000 individuals directly involved in ranching and beef production who manage 4 million head of cattle on 76 million acres of range and pasture land primarily in Texas and Oklahoma, but throughout the Southwest.