Wisconsin cheese company owner pleads guilty, sentenced for felony theft from 80+ dairy farmers

WISCONSIN RAPIDS -- Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul today announced Friday, July 10 that Michael Moran, owner of Wisconsin Dairy State Cheese Company, pleaded guilty to felony theft from more than 80 farmers in Wood County. He was sentenced to one year of probation, 100 hours of community service and nearly $10,000 in fines and other costs.

On January 28, 2020, Moran was charged with one count of felony theft.

Moran pre-paid more than $21,000 in restitution, an amount which the state agrees is the correct amount. The money has been paid to the clerk of courts, which will distribute the restitution to the victims. The Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Crime Victims Services (OCVS) will provide the clerk with assistance as needed with regard to the victims and ensuring all victims receive their payment.

A criminal complaint alleged that Moran forged the names of farmers on underpayment checks and converted the funds for his own use or the use of others.

Farmers provided milk to Moran's business -- Dairy State Cheese Company in Rudolph. Processors, such as cheese plants, write underpayment checks to producers, such as dairy farmers, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) 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.

The complaint claimed that after Moran would forge the payees’ signatures on the back of the checks, he would then place them in the cash register at the cheese store thereby converting them for his own use, all without the consent of the payees. The checks from the register would then be taken together to the bank at the end of the week and deposited.

Approximately 83 milk producers are reported to have been victimized. The total losses for these 83 milk producers amounts to $21,250.97. Of the victims, 21 are over 60 years old.

This case was prosecuted by the DOJ Division of Legal Services (DLS) Criminal Litigation Unit Assistant Attorney General Dan Lennington. The investigation was led by the DOJ Division of Criminal Investigation, with assistance from the USDA Office of Inspector General. OCVS assisted victims.