Fayette County

Veterinarian helped Lexington company ship thousands of cattle without inspections

File photo of a cow.
File photo of a cow. The Kansas City Star

A veterinarian who helped a Lexington company move cattle without proper inspections has been fined $10,000.

John M. Moran, of Fleming County, also will be on probation for three years.

Moran, 65, was charged with Eugene Barber & Sons, a Lexington company that ships cattle.

In cases where cattle are going to be shipped across state lines, federal law requires that a veterinarian inspect them and issue a certificate, according to a court record.

The purpose of the rule is to limit the spread of disease.

Moran admitted taking part in a scheme in which he sold the cattle company pre-signed certificates without actually inspecting the loads, according to a court record.

Employees of the company signed the forms, allowing cattle to be shipped.

The arrangement lasted from 1998 through April 2015, but the charges in the case covered just two years.

In that time, Eugene Barber & Sons shipped 675 loads of cattle, totaling more than 60,000 animals, using false certificates, Assistant U.S Attorney Kate K. Smith said in one memorandum.

The company paid Moran $18,750 in two years, according to a court document.

Moran estimated that providing pre-signed certificates saved the cattle company $70 on each shipment. That would have been more than $45,000 on 675 shipments.

“The benefit of this scheme to Barber & Sons was plainly money and convenience,” Smith said in a court memo.

And Moran, Smith said, made thousands of false statements “all for financial gain.”

The scheme came to light after the cattle company used a certificate from Moran on a load in Tennessee, according to information in a court document.

Andrew Sparks, who represented the company, said that the cows the company shipped from Kentucky were young and not due for slaughter for a year or more, so nobody was in danger of eating sick cattle as a result of the scheme.

The company pleaded guilty. U.S. District Judge Joseph M. Hood imposed a fine of $150,000 and three years’ probation in February.

Advisory sentencing calculations outlined a sentence for Moran of 18 to 24 months in prison.

However, his attorney, Elizabeth S. Hughes, urged the judge to place Moran on probation.

Hughes said that while Moran took part in the dubious conduct covered in the charges, supporters said he is an ethical, hard-working vet who helped his community.

“They tell a tale of a humble man who frequently forgoes his fees in order to assist people with their pets and farm animals,” Hughes wrote. “He regularly makes home and barn calls in the middle of the night and is a skilled veterinarian.”

Hood sentenced Moran April 22.