MENTON, Texas – A high-ranking official in a rural and sparsely populated county of West Texas has been arrested on charges of stealing cattle.
The 71-year-old Skeet Jones County Judge and three other men were arrested Friday on charges of stealing animals and involvement in organized crime.
All four men were taken to jail in nearby Winkler County, from where they have since been released on bail. Jones did not respond to a call asking for comment on Sunday.
The arrests came after a year-long investigation, a statement from the Texas and Southwestern Livestock Breeders Association said.
The association has ordered peace officers known as special rangers to investigate agricultural crimes, including the theft of cattle and horses. Caretakers also determine the ownership of the stray animal.
Special rangers of the association claim that Jones and others collected stray cattle and sold them without following the procedures set out in the Texas Agricultural Code. These procedures include calling the sheriff to report the stray animal, and allowing the sheriff to search for the pet owner.
The association declined to give further details of the case, citing an ongoing investigation. The theft of an animal is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and the charge of organized crime – up to 20 years in prison.
Laving County, located along the Texas-New Mexico border, is the least populated county in the state. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, it has a population of 57.
Jones has been in office since 2007.
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