WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis. (WFRV) – The owner of a Wood County cheese company has been charged with felony theft of more than 80 farmers, according to Attorney General Josh Kaul.
In a release from the AG’s office, Michael Moran, the owner of Wisconsin Dairy State Cheese Company, faces a maximum sentence of up to 10 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $25,000.
“Wisconsin’s dairy farmers are in the midst of a crisis,” said AG Kaul. “It’s particularly galling that theft alleged in this case resulted in money being stolen from milk producers during such a difficult time.”
According to AG Kaul, farmers provide milk to Moran’s business in Rudolph. A criminal complaint alleges that Moran forged the names of farmers on underpayment checks and then converted the funds for his own use or the use of others.
Underpayment checks are often written by processors, such as cheese plants, to producers, like dairy farmers, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture sets the price of milk higher than what a processor initially paid for the milk. USDA auditors determine the amount of underpayment and order processors to issue the underpayment checks.
The complaint explains that after Moran forged the payees’ signatures on the back of the checks, he would then place them in the cash register at the cheese store, converting them for his own use, all without the consent of the payees. The checks from the register would then be taken together to the bank at the end of the week and deposited.
Authorities say about 83 milk producers have been victimized. The total loss for these producers amounts to $21,250.97. AG Kaul says 21 of those affected are over 60-years-old.