Hidalgo County man behind bars in cattle scheme case
Defendant took almost $150,000 in exchange for livestock that didn’t exist
One year ago, a pair of South Texas brothers set out to be cattlemen. Unfortunately, they were led astray by Phillip Drake, who now sits in jail facing third-degree felony charges for theft of livestock.
Drake told the men they’d get rich quick — and he would help. They gave him $147,950 for 232 head of cattle to start their business.
After six months, they saw no return and only saw their cattle from the window of pickup truck as Drake would point out which were theirs. After pushing Drake for cattle or cash, the brothers only received excuses. Excuse after excuse led the brothers to believe they were being had.
When Drake finally responded, the brothers were given multiple checks totaling $272,920. As the checks were cashed, their suspicious were confirmed. The checks had all been written from closed or nonexistent accounts.
That’s when they reached out to Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association Special Ranger Joe Aguilar Jr. for help.
After confirming the closure of accounts from the banks, Aguilar began to investigate the whereabouts of the cattle. Texas Department of Public Safety air operations assisted by conducting an aerial search of Drake’s ranch, which revealed there were no cattle on the property.
With no cattle, no cash and no cooperation, Aguilar secured a felony arrest warrant and arrested Drake Oct. 16.
Aguilar said this case is a good reminder to know who you’re doing business with, especially when so much money is at stake.
“And, unfortunately,” the ranger said, “if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association’s special rangers are an elite group of law enforcement officers who have extensive knowledge of the cattle industry. While they primarily investigate cattle theft and other agricultural crimes, they are well-trained in all facets of law enforcement. In all, the association has 30 special rangers stationed throughout Texas and Oklahoma who are commissioned through the Texas Department of Public Safety or Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.
The special rangers also oversee more than 80 market inspectors who collect data, such as brands and other identifying marks on about 5 million cattle sold at 100 Texas livestock markets each year. That information is entered into the association’s recording and retrieval system, which is a vital tool for law enforcement when investigating theft cases.