A high-ranking county official in West Texas has been arrested for the rustling of cattle in a case that has sparked anger in the tiny Loving community.

71-year-old Skeet Lee Jones, a judge and chief elected official in the county, faces three charges of stealing less than $ 150,000 worth of animals and one of involvement in organized crime after his arrest Friday, sheriff Winkler Darin. Mitchell, said Sunday.

Mitchell said Jones and three other men were arrested and all four defendants were released on bail. The arrests are the result of an annual investigation by the Texas and Southwest Livestock Association, which has instructed law enforcement officials to investigate agricultural crimes such as cattle theft, Mitchell added.

Mitchell said the association’s staff alleges that Jones and his accused accomplices took the stray cattle and sold it without following the procedures required by the state’s agricultural code. These procedures require people to report the stray animal to the sheriff and provide an opportunity to find animal owners, he said.

Jones did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday.

His cousin Brendan Jones is a police officer, an elected county law enforcement officer.

“The whole time he was a judge, he had freedom,” Brendan Jones told NBC News. “It gave him a sense of power and impunity that he can do whatever he wants if he wants. Even a sense of self-justice. That he can’t do anything wrong. “

Susan Hayes, an election lawyer who confronted Skeet Jones, told NBC News that she did not believe he was “risking real trouble” by allegedly stealing cattle.

“Gathering cattle and bringing them to market is difficult,” Hayes said.

Jones has been a district judge of Laving since 2007 and earns an annual salary of more than $ 133,000. He was repeatedly re-elected without opposition, illustrating his power and influence in his community.

The loving county – where the oil and gas economy generates billions of dollars in taxes – is located along the Texas-New Mexico border and is the state’s least populated county with just 57 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In Texas, district judges are, in effect, heads of local government who have broad administrative as well as judicial powers.

No other details about the charges against Jones were available immediately. If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison for stealing an animal and up to 20 years in prison for organized crime.

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