Veterinarian pleads guilty to conspiracy in illegally moving 60,000 cattle for Lexington firm

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

The veterinarian for a Lexington cattle company pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal charge related to illegally moving cattle across state lines.

Dr. John M. Moran, 65, of Flemingsburg, faces up to five years in prison on a charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States. Two other charges against Moran will be dismissed at sentencing.

Moran was scheduled to go on trial Tuesday in federal court in Lexington. That jury trial is now canceled.

Moran is the second of two defendants to enter a guilty plea. Eugene Barber pleaded guilty in November to one count of conspiracy to defraud; he is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 25.

Barber and some of his relatives are members of Blue Grass Stockyards LLC but the stockyards were not named in the indictment against Barber and Moran. Barber & Sons is a separate company from the stockyards.

Under federal law, when cattle are moved across state lines, a veterinarian must certify that the animals have been inspected for signs that they could be infected or carrying a communicable disease.

The law is meant to trace livestock when there are disease outbreaks. Traceability, or knowing where diseased or at-risk animals are located and where they have been, is seen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as way to ensure rapid response to outbreaks of animal disease.

Moran was accused of pre-signing paperwork certifying that cattle sold by Barber & Sons were safe but he had not inspected them. Barber & Sons was accused of paying Moran for every pre-signed certification.

By circumventing the law, Barber & Sons presumably saved money on veterinarian fees, but court documents don’t estimate the amount.

Between 2013 and 2015, Moran allegedly falsified 675 certifications for Barber & Sons for the shipment of more than 60,000 cattle across state lines.

The indictment said Moran received $18,750 from Barber & Sons for the false certifications.

U.S. District Court Judge Joseph M. Hood scheduled Moran’s sentencing for April 22. Moran is free until then.

Smoke and fire rise along Lisle Industrial Avenue as the Blue Grass Stockyards burn around 2:30 p.m. in Lexington, Ky., on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016.

Greg Kocher has been at the Lexington Herald-Leader since 1997. He covers state and federal courts, and some breaking news. From 1997 to 2016, he was a regional reporter who covered counties adjacent to Fayette County.