NORMAN — The leader of a confessed cattle theft ring was handed four indictments by an Oklahoma multi-county grand jury Thursday.
Former Lincoln County District Judge Craig Key, 48, of Chandler, was charged with 26 felony charges, including embezzlement and cattle theft.
Key was handed five indictment charges in April and May. The charges were sealed until Thursday.
Kent Dowell, special ranger with the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association who led the investigation into the cattle theft charges, said that in October, 11 head of cattle were allegedly stolen from a northern Lincoln County rancher, on Key’s instructions.
Further investigations by Dowell revealed that Key was involved in numerous fraud and embezzlement schemes.
Key, a former attorney, allegedly embezzled more than $475,000 from his clients, according to the Oklahoma General Attorney’s Office who investigated him on other charges.
Four other defendants also were charged in connection with the crimes.
“This is (a) very complex investigation involving multiple suspects and multiple crimes,” Dowell said. “At the end of the day, though, this investigation started with a rancher noticing his cattle were missing, and thankfully we were able to locate those stolen cattle and return them back to the owner.”
The grand jury will reconvene Aug. 20-22 to hear more witness statements.
Dowell said he expects more indictments to be handed down, including charges for racketeering.
Key bonded out of the Lincoln County Jail on Friday.
TSCRA said they would like to thank Attorney General Investigator David Driscoll for his hard work on the investigation.
TSCRA has 29 special rangers stationed strategically throughout Texas and Oklahoma who have in-depth knowledge of the cattle industry and are trained in all facets of law enforcement. All are commissioned as special rangers by the Texas Department of Public Safety and/or the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.
TSCRA is a 136-year-old trade association and the largest, oldest livestock organization based in Texas. It has more than 16,000 beef cattle operations, ranching families and businesses as members.
The members represent about 50,000 individuals directly involved in ranching and beef production who manage four million head of cattle on 76 million acres of range and pasture land primarily in Texas and Oklahoma but also throughout the Southwest.