An Alberta man who officials say is linked to multimillion-dollar hay fraud “scams” in the United States has faced trial in Canada over similar allegations.
Crown attorneys and Scott James Piggott appeared in court Monday to set a trial date in Lethbridge on the man’s charges in Alberta, which include fraud over $5,000 and theft over $5 $000.
Piggott also faces charges related to breaching bail conditions – an Alberta RCMP spokesperson said the offense is related to the purchase of hay or other crops.
Piggott will go on trial May 1, 2023 in Lethbridge on two counts of theft over $5,000 and one count of fraud over $5,000.
A judicial review for Piggott shows he also faces similar charges from Drumheller and Taber.
Trial dates for these cases have not yet been set.
A lawyer from the specialist Crown Prosecutions Unit appeared in court on Piggott’s current charges. This branch of the Crown office usually handles cases involving charges of fraud and theft over $500,000.
The Crown declined to provide a statement to CBC News.
Piggott’s attorney, Pat Fagan, did not respond to a request for comment.
Meanwhile in the United States, Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen issued a press release warning ranchers in the state of ‘feed scams’ that could target them, including a company called New Way Ag. Knudsen alleges the company ‘stole’ up to US$5 million from ranchers in the Montana when she failed to deliver food for which she accepted payment.
In an email to CBC News, Kyler Nerison, communications director for the Montana Department of Justice, said investigators believe Piggott was connected to New Way Ag, though details are still unclear.
CBC News has filed a business registration and trade name search application for New Way Ag. Documents provided indicate that the company operated from Okotoks and is registered in a woman’s name. This person, specifies a source close to the investigation, is a member of the family of Piggott.
CBC contacted the email address associated with the company’s registration, but did not receive a response.
“It’s distressing to see people take advantage of others in this way.”– Kyler Nerison, Montana Department of Justice
Nerison said the company came to their attention through tips from across the state. He said the company is still under investigation and will monitor the outcome of what is happening in Lethbridge.
The Montana 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 attract Montana ranchers and a of Wyoming. Nerison said advertisements ran in trade publications and on the 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 basically ran away. It’s bad news. It’s heartbreaking to see people take advantage of others in this way,” Nerison said.
A Montana rancher lost US$100,000, Nerison said, and since the department issued the warning he has received numerous calls from others claiming to have had the same experience.
Farmer forced to use food banks
A northeast Alberta farmer, whose identity was accepted by CBC, said he dealt with Piggott three years ago. Although at the time he was going by Scott Perry, the farmer said he learned of Piggott’s identity after turning himself in to police.
The farmer, who is in his 60s, said he sent truckloads of barley to an Alberta grain company for a total 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 get it back. And it collapsed. Everything collapsed…our foundation collapsed. We have to borrow money,” he said.
He said the loss forced him to borrow money and use a food bank.
“We sold some good furniture just to get some cash and pay for our utilities and sold a new vehicle or a newer vehicle and got an old one going. Big hustle.”