SEC obtains emergency relief to halt alleged $191 million cattle Ponzi scheme

(Journal stock photo by Jennifer Carrico.)

The Securities and Exchange Commission in December announced that it obtained a temporary restraining order, asset freeze, the appointment of a receiver, and other emergency relief to halt an ongoing $191 million cattle Ponzi scheme being perpetrated by Fort Worth, Texas company Agridime LLC, which claims to specialize in meat sales, distribution, and animal supply chain management, and its owners, Josh Link of Gilbert, Arizona, and Jed Wood of Fort Worth.

The SEC alleges that the defendants diverted millions of dollars of investor funds to make Ponzi payments and to pay undisclosed sales commissions to themselves and others.

“The defendants enticed investors with guarantees that they could ‘make money raising cattle without having to do all the work,’ but as we allege in our complaint, their promises of annual returns of 15 to 32% were, in the defendants’ own words, ‘too good to be true,’” said Eric Werner, director of the SEC’s Fort Worth Regional Office.

According to the SEC’s complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, the defendants have raised at least $191 million from more than 2,100 investors in at least 15 states by offering and selling investments related to the supposed purchase and sale of cattle. The defendants told investors that Agridime would use their funds to acquire, feed, and raise cattle on its network of ranches, and investors would help provide “fellow Americans with the highest quality farm fresh beef available.”

However, as alleged in the complaint, the defendants did not purchase nearly enough cattle or generate sufficient revenues from cattle operations to deliver the promised returns. Instead, the complaint alleges that, since December 2022, the defendants have used at least $58 million of new investor funds to make Ponzi payments to prior investors and more than $11 million to pay undisclosed sales commissions to Wood, Link, Link’s wife, and other Agridime sales representatives.

The SEC’s complaint charges the defendants with violating the antifraud and registration provisions of the federal securities laws. In addition to the emergency relief granted by the court, the SEC is seeking preliminary and permanent injunctions, disgorgement, prejudgment interest, civil penalties, and officer and-director bars against Link and Wood.

The SEC’s ongoing investigation is being conducted by enforcement staff in the SEC’s Fort Worth and Atlanta regional offices, including D. Thomas Keltner, Jonathan Scott, Carol Stumbaugh, and Cody Turley, under the supervision of Timothy McCole and B. David Fraser. The SEC’s litigation will be led by Matthew Gulde and Tyson Lies. The commission appreciates the assistance of the Arizona Corporation Commission, the North Dakota Securities Department, the Oklahoma Department of Securities, and the Texas State Securities Board.