An Alberta man who officials say is connected to multi-million dollar hay fraud “scams” in the United States has had a trial set in Canada for similar allegations.
Lawyers for the Crown and Scott James Piggott appeared in court Monday to set a trial date in Lethbridge on the man’s Alberta charges, which include fraud over $5,000 and theft over $5,000.
Piggott also faces charges related to failure to comply with release conditions — an Alberta RCMP spokesperson said that breach is related to purchasing hay or other crops.
Piggott will go to trial May 1, 2023, in Lethbridge on two charges of theft over $5,000 and one count of fraud over $5,000.
A court check for Piggott shows he also faces similar charges out of Drumheller and Taber.
Trial dates for those cases have not yet been set.
A lawyer from the Crown’s specialized prosecution unit has been appearing in court on Piggott’s current charges. That branch of the Crown’s office ordinarily handles files that involve charges alleging frauds and thefts over $500,000.
The Crown declined to supply a statement to CBC News.
Piggott’s lawyer, Pat Fagan, did not respond to a request for comment.
Meanwhile in the U.S., Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen issued a release warning the state’s ranchers of “cattle feed scams” that might be targeting them, including one company called New Way Ag. Knudsen alleges that the company “stole” as much as $5 million US from Montana ranchers when it didn’t deliver feed it took payment for.
In an email to CBC News, Kyler Nerison, communications director for the Montana Department of Justice, said investigators believe Piggott is linked to New Way Ag, though the details still remain unclear.
CBC News filed a corporate registration and trade name search for New Way Ag. The documents provided say the company was operated out of Okotoks and is registered under a woman’s name. That person, says a source close to the investigation, is a family member of Piggott.
CBC reached out to the email address connected to the business registration, but did not receive a response.
“It’s distressing to see people take advantage of others in that way.” – Kyler Nerison, Montana Department of Justice
Nerison said the company was brought to their attention through tips from across the state. He said the company is still under investigation and they will be watching the outcome of what happens in Lethbridge.
Montana’s Department of Justice provided CBC News with a New Way Ag ad, touting grain hay, barley straw and wheat straw, which Nerison said was used to lure ranchers in Montana, and one in Wyoming. Nerison said ads were run in trade publications and on radio.
The ad lists a 587-area code for Alberta and says the company is “here to help livestock producers afford to keep their herds.”
“They took the money and ran, essentially. It’s bad news. It’s distressing to see people take advantage of others in that way,” Nerison said.
One Montana rancher lost $100,000 US, Nerison said, and since the department put out the warning they’ve received numerous calls from other people who claim to have had the same experience.
Farmer forced to resort to food banks
A northeastern Alberta farmer, whose identity CBC has agreed to withhold, said he dealt with Piggott three years ago. Though at that time he was going by Scott Perry, the farmer said he became aware of Piggott’s identity after going to the police.
The farmer, who is in his 70s, said he sent an Alberta grain company trucks of barley for a total amount of $255,000. He claims he was only paid $25,000 for the grain by the company, and was given excuses as to why the money never came.
None of these claims have been proven in court.
“At my age, I’ll never recover it. And it just crumbled. Crumbled everything … crumbled our foundation. We have to borrow money,” he said.
He said the loss made him need to resort to borrowing money and using a food bank.
“We sold good furniture just to have money and pay our utilities and sold a new vehicle or a newer vehicle and got an old one going. Big turmoil.”