By Terri Parker
Martin County sheriff's deputies arrested an Okeechobee man on grand theft charges in what the sheriff said is the largest cattle rustling scheme in the county's history.
Sheriff William Snyder said Dave Rorabeck, the owner of Pine Ridge Plantation, had Judson Shurley managing his ranch in Indiantown.
When Rorabeck became suspicious about declining revenues over a two-year period, he said he confronted Shurely, who confessed to taking cows and calves to auction and pocketing the proceeds.
Detectives said Shurely sold 175 cows for a total of $102,000. Rorabeck also said Shurely stole nearly $100,000 worth of sod.
"We also had a farm credit loan on that money, so we're out a double whammy," Rorabeck said. "It's not like it was just an asset that was gone. We have a debt on that money, and he knew that."
The sheriff said he suspected Shurely was taking cows from other ranches as well.
Rorabeck said he has only about 60 cows now and has lost about $500,000, forcing him to discontinue the cattle business. He and his partners will keep their hunting business on the ranch.
"It's pretty sad," Rorabeck said.