Western South Dakota's Only Ranch Station
Rancher standing by pickup with a cow in the background.
Tom Murphy ranches near Killdeer, N.D. He expects to lose money he invested with Agridime, a Texas-based cattle company. (Jeff Beach/North Dakota Monitor)

Ranchers, Others Hit Hard By Alleged $161M Ponzi Scheme

WASHINGTON, D.C.  — The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced it filed a civil enforcement action in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas against Agridime LLC, a Texas corporation, and its co-founders, Joshua Link of Gilbert, Arizona and Jed Wood of Ft. Worth, Texas.

The complaint alleges the defendants engaged in a scheme to defraud thousands of customers in at least 14 states (including South and North Dakota)  by soliciting, accepting, and using customers’ funds to pay undisclosed commissions and used later customers’ funds to pay profits to earlier customers, in the manner of a Ponzi scheme, rather than for the purposes Agridime represented those funds would be used.

Agridime claimed the funds would be used in connection with contracts of sale of a commodity in interstate commerce (i.e., the customer’s purchase of cattle). As alleged in the CFTC’s complaint, upon information and belief, from approximately 2021 until December 2023, the defendants received more than $161 million from over 2,000 customers.

As alleged in the complaint, Agridime operated an online platform that purportedly allowed customers to buy and sell cattle and pitched victims with the prospect of guaranteed annual rates of return between at least 15% and 20%. As advertised, Agridime’s cattle purchase program afforded customers the opportunity to buy and sell cattle without the actual day-to-day care of the cattle, or as Agridime stated in solicitation materials, purchasers of livestock would “make money raising cattle without having to do all the work.” 

 As further alleged in the Agridime cattle program, customers supposedly bought cattle, typically for $2,000 a head, and Agridime was to handle the feeding and care of the cattle, via farmers with whom Agridime partnered, until the cattle were ready to be processed and the beef sold. 

 As alleged in the complaint, Agridime represented the customers’ funds would be used only for the purchase, raising, and feeding of the purchased cattle. Instead, because Agridime did not buy the number of cattle required to fulfill its obligations under the livestock contracts, Agridime had to use recent customers’ funds to pay the guaranteed profits of earlier customers. In addition, as further alleged, upon information and belief, customers’ funds were also used to pay approximately $11 million in undisclosed commissions to Agridime personnel, including to Link, his wife, and Wood. 

In its continuing litigation against the defendants, the CFTC seeks restitution to defrauded customers, civil monetary penalties, trading bans, and a permanent injunction against further violations of the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA) and CFTC regulations.

In 2021, representatives from the Fort Worth, Texas-based company started reaching out to potential investors in the cattle industry, offering a deal that their own website acknowledged “sounds too good to be true.” Across at least 14 states, Agridime reps negotiated investment contracts related to the sale and purchase of cattle, promising 15 to 32 percent returns on the investment.

Agridime targeted ranchers who could sell their cattle to the company, people who might be interested in investing in cattle, and beef distributors.

North Dakota was hit especially hard by Agridime’s scheme. In 2023, regulators there and in Arizona issued cease-and-desist orders against the company. But even after those orders were in place, Agridime sold more than $9 million in cattle contracts to North Dakotans, according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The SEC shut down Agridime in December after it accused that the company of  fraudulently selling securities in cattle contracts as part of an alleged $191 million Ponzi scheme.

In February, a federal judge in Texas appointed a receiver who took possession of the company’s assets. In total, the SEC alleges that the company raised at least $191 million from more than 2,100 investors. The SEC declined to comment beyond their public filings.

When the SEC froze Agridime’s assets in December 2023, it placed the company under a court-ordered receivership. At the end of March 2024, the receiver was in negotiations with a North Dakota-based investor group that wanted to purchase the assets of Agridime and American Grazed Beef, the newly created brand name for meat inventories held by Agridime) The receiver expects to submit a liquidation plan to the federal court in Texas by the end of July.

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