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Published June 26, 2009, 12:00 AM

Owner of auction barn charged in cattle theft

Joe Varner, whose Fergus Falls, Minn., livestock auction barn hosted a major auctioneer championship earlier this month, has been charged with stealing cattle from a Watertown, S.D., auction barn of which he is co-owner.

By: By Jonathan Knutson, INFORUM

Joe Varner, whose Fergus Falls, Minn., livestock auction barn hosted a major auctioneer championship earlier this month, has been charged with stealing cattle from a Watertown, S.D., auction barn of which he is co-owner.

Varner, 52, of Pierz, Minn., was charged by Codington County authorities with aggravated grand theft after 188 head of cattle were allegedly stolen from the Watertown auction barn March 3.

Varner, who has ownership interests in 15 livestock auction barns in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, is to be in court July 14 in Watertown.

The Kansas City, Mo.-based Livestock Marketing Association is aware of the situation and is confident the legal system will work as it should, John McBride, the association’s director of information, said in a prepared statement.

He declined to comment beyond the statement.

The association’s 46th annual World Livestock Auctioneer Championship was June 13 at Varner’s Fergus Falls Livestock Auction.

It was the second time the annual event was held in Minnesota. The championship was held in St. Paul in 1981.

Varner told The Forum before this year’s championship that he was excited to help bring the event to Fergus Falls.

The Pierz telephone number listed for Varner has been disconnected.

The clerk of court for Codington County didn’t know Thursday who is serving as Varner’s attorney.

Varner was arrested Tuesday afternoon in Fergus Falls. He was released after posting $100,000 bond.

The maximum penalty for aggravated grand theft is 15 years in prison and a $30,000 fine.

The 188 cattle have been located and are at an undisclosed site. They’re under U.S. Bankruptcy Court control, pending their sale in Watertown.


Copyright © 2009 The Forum. All rights reserved. AP contributed to this report.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jonathan Knutson at (701) 241-5530

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