Dairy owner accused of stealing from Wisconsin farmers

WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis. — Wisconsin's attorney general said Thursday the owner of a dairy company is accused of stealing more than $20,000 from local farmers.

Josh Kaul said Michael J. Moran, owner of Wisconsin Dairy State Cheese Company, has been charged with felony theft involving more than 80 farmers in Wood County. If convicted, he faces 10 years in prison.

“It’s particularly galling that theft alleged in this case resulted in money being stolen from milk producers during such a difficult time,” Kaul said, referring to the struggles the dairy industry has faced over the last five years, with low milk prices, trade disputes, and bankruptcies in the state.

Prosecutors charged Moran Tuesday. It's unknown whether he has an attorney representing him.

Prosecutors allege that farmers would provide milk to Moran’s business in Rudolph, Wis., but Moran would then forge the names of farmers on underpayment checks and cash them for himself. Prosecutors said processors, such as cheese plants, write underpayment checks to producers, such as dairy farmers, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture sets the price of milk higher than what a processor initially paid for the milk. USDA auditors determine the amount of underpayment and order processors to issue the underpayment checks.