By Zeke MacCormack
Six men have been indicted in what's being called the Hill Country's largest rustling case in memory: the alleged pilfering of roughly 6,000 lambs worth upwards of $800,000.
The animals were reported stolen by the Immel Feed Yard, a sprawling network of pens in the rolling rural countryside north of town, where one suspect had worked for years.
“It's devastating,” owner Alton Immel said of the thefts, the worst since the business opened in 1969, made worse by the possible betrayal of a worker.
The thefts began on a small scale, with a few animals secreted away in the backs of pickups, said Max Hartmann, special agent for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.
“When they realized how easy it was, they enlarged the operation and began using trailers,” he said Friday.
The four-legged inventory at the 30-acre lot often tops 10,000 head, making it hard to tell by sight if hundreds vanished overnight.
“You wouldn't notice it at all,” said Immel, who's bolstered yard security.
The organized crime indictments issued Monday accuse the defendants, including four brothers, of conspiring in 2010-11 to steal the lambs and sell them in Gillespie, Burnet and Mills counties. More....