A Wichita Falls man has been arrested on theft charges in a case that encompasses more than 10 counties in Texas and Oklahoma, 8,000 head of cattle and outstanding loans of more than $5.8 million. The arrest is the result of an investigation led by Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) Special Rangers John Bradshaw and Troy McKinney.
The investigation began more than a year ago in March 2017, after Bradshaw was contacted by representatives of the First United Bank in Sanger. It was indicated that Howard Lee Hinkle, 67, had defaulted on several loans with past due balances totaling more than $5.8 million. When bank officials acted on a court order to gather the approximately 8,000 yearling cattle put up as collateral, they were unable to locate any of the animals.
Hinkle had purportedly told the bank the cattle were scattered across properties in 10 counties in Texas and Oklahoma. Bradshaw enlisted the assistance of fellow special rangers to help identify and interview numerous witnesses and collect vital evidence across the two states.
As the investigation continued, the rangers identified the various properties and cattle listed in the loans, but found that none were legitimately owned by Hinkle. It is suspected that Hinkle deceived the bank by showing them fraudulent documentation and cattle that belonged to other individuals.
Bradshaw presented the evidence to a Denton County grand jury on June 14, 2018, and an indictment was handed down the following week for first-degree felony charges of theft, more than $200,000. Hinkle was arrested without incident on June 27, 2018, and booked into the Wichita County Jail. He was released on bond pending trial. If convicted, Hinkle could face up to life in prison along with possible fines and restitution.
In raising cattle, it is common for credit to be extended for a variety of purposes, including buying cattle, equipment and property. When criminals defraud financial institutions, as alleged in this case, it can make credit harder to obtain and more expensive for other producers who rely on those same financial tools. Bradshaw hopes this case will serve as a warning to those who might consider defrauding their creditors.
“Life in prison is a big price to pay. It;s not worth it,” said Bradshaw. “Fraud and deception rarely work for very long, and eventually justice will prevail.”
TSCRA and Special Ranger Bradshaw would like to thank the Denton County District Attorney’s Office and Assistant District Attorney Sheila Bowels for their assistance on the case.