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article imageTexas men jailed for nabbing 6,000 lambs worth $1M Special

By Lynn Herrmann     Sep 20, 2011 in Crime
Fredericksburg - A Texas hill country feed yard has seen around 6,000 head of sheep disappear over a series of months, and now five sheep rustlers sit behind bars in what is being called one of the largest livestock heists in the state’s history.

Across cattle guards and into open range, miles from the nearest town, Immel Feed Yard is home to thousands of head of sheep, young and old alike, and over the course of several months in 2010, the wool began being pulled, literally. Around 6,000 head of young lambs are alleged to have been stolen from the feed yard.
Alton Immel, owner of Immel Feed Yard, located between Sandy and Willow City, declined to comment, instead directing inquiries by Digital Journal to the investigating officer in the case.
Special Ranger Max Hartmann, with the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA), is investigating the case and sat down to speak with Digital Journal Tuesday afternoon.
News reports suggest the thefts make up one of the largest livestock rustling operations in state annals. “The investigation is ongoing, but to my knowledge, it’s one of the largest, certainly in numbers of animals,” Hartmann said.
Sheep at Immel Feed Yard in the Texas hill country.
Sheep at Immel Feed Yard in the Texas hill country.
In January, Immel contacted Ranger Hartmann and Gillespie County law enforcement officials. “The thefts involved mostly young lambs and occurred over a period of several months and came to light when the owner did an inventory,” Hartmann continued. “Approximately 6,000 head were alleged to have been stolen out of that feedlot.”
Wide open spaces are a common sight in many parts of the state, and those spaces, with neighbors few and far between, can carry their own perils, even in an area as popular as the hill country. “It’s a rural area, right on the county line, and you saw there are no houses close by,” Hartmann noted.
Special Ranger Max Hartmann  with the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association  speaking wi...
Special Ranger Max Hartmann, with the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, speaking with Digital Journal.
While lamb rustlers might be a rare breed, Texas cattle rustlers are still in operation, and TSCRA spokeswoman Carmen Fenton said: “The lamb case is kind of unusual, but cattle rustling is still common,” MySA reports. In 2010, Texas had 7,700 head of cattle reported missing, an increase over 7,400 in 2009 and 6,400 in 2008.
The investigation, which began in January, has led to the arrests of suspects from neighboring Blanco and Burnet counties. Hartmann told DJ: “It is public knowledge there are five men in jail, with bonds ranging from $200,000 to $750,000.” Sitting in Gillespie County Jail are Emilio Rodriguez Lopez, 59, Francisco Rodriguez Lopez, 44, Cipriano Rodriguez Lopez, 43, Angel Gonzalez-Cortez, 29, and Jose Martinez Hernandez, 38. All face first degree felony charges.
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