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Billings rancher admits fraud in cattle grazing fee investigation

By MTN News,


BILLINGS — A Billings man accused of defrauding the Bureau of Land Management of fees in a cattle grazing scheme admitted to a mail fraud crime Thursday, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.

Gene John Klamert, 70, pleaded guilty to mail fraud. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

The government alleged in court documents that between 2017 and 2020, Klamert held a BLM grazing permit that allowed him to graze his cattle on public land called the Two Crow allotment, near Winnett. The permit authorized Klamert to graze cattle he owned for a low monthly base rate, which the BLM charged for each head of cattle.

To graze cattle owned by any third party, the permit required Klamert to pay the base rate plus a higher surcharge per head of cattle. From May 2018 to May 2020, as part of Klamert’s reported use of public land, he submitted a fraudulent bill of sale to the BLM stating that he had purchased cattle from an individual, identified as John Doe, when in fact, Klamert knew that no actual sale occurred.

As a result, Klamert avoided paying surcharge fees that he owed to the BLM. To accomplish the scheme, the government alleged, Klamert instructed John Doe to sign a bill of sale, stating that he was selling his cattle to Klamert, when in fact John Doe had only contracted with Klamert to graze his cattle on the BLM allotment.

At Klamert’s direction, John Doe mailed the fraudulent bill of sale to Klamert, who signed and mailed it to the BLM to report what cattle he was grazing on the public land.

U.S. District Judge Susan P. Watters presided. The court will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. Sentencing was set for May 25. Klamert was released pending further proceedings.

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