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South Dakota auction barn, livestock company accused of violating federal law

SISSETON, S.D. — The vice president of a South Dakota livestock auction says allegations that his company violated federal law by falsifying information had nothing to do with the livestock auction itself.

Tyler Hellwig, vice president of Sisseton Livestock Auction, would not answer questions about the complaint filed last month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service against his company and on May 8 referred a reporter to “the people involved” before hanging up.

“It really had nothing to do with us,” Hellwig said. “It had to do with the buyers.”

The Agricultural Marketing Service on April 16 filed a complaint against Sisseton Livestock Auction for alleged violations of the Packers and Stockyards Act. Complaints also were filed the same day against Larson Livestock of Columbia, S.D., and Carson Larson. Larson could not be reached for comment on the cases.

According to news releases from the USDA, the allegations include the following:

  • Both Sisseton Livestock Auction and Larson Livestock are accused of falsifying purchase prices and weights in 21 transactions involving 41 head from November 2015 and March 2016.

  • Both Sisseton Livestock Auction and Larson Livestock are accused of falsifying invoices “to show the consignment and sale of 19 head of cattle that did not exist” from September 2015 to March 2016.

  • Sisseton Livestock Auction and Larson Livestock are accused of coordinating with each other to alter invoices in 22 transactions from December 2015 to March 2016.

  • Larson is accused of buying back 788 head of his own livestock that had been purchased at a lower price to fill orders for a customer from July 2017 to December 2017.

The Packers and Stockyards Act is designed to ensure effective competition and integrity in livestock, meat, and poultry markets. Falsifying prices, weights, invoices, and the consignment and sale of livestock, or buying back livestock that was originally purchased at a lower price to fill orders are violations of the Packers and Stockyards Act.

The USDA news releases in the cases say Sisseton Livestock Auction, Larson Livestock and Larson had 20 days to respond to the complaints against them.

According to the USDA releases, civil penalties of up to $11,000 per violation may be assessed for proven or admitted violations of the Packers and Stockyards Act. I.J. Perez of the Agricultural Marketing Service says suspension of registration for a set time is a possible sanction for the involved businesses.

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