Dairy State Cheese owner accused of defrauding farmers to reach plea deal

Dairy State Cheese in Rudolph, Wis. Jan. 30, 2020. (WSAW)
Dairy State Cheese in Rudolph, Wis. Jan. 30, 2020. (WSAW)(WSAW)
Published: Feb. 24, 2020 at 8:41 AM CST
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The man accused of defrauding 83 farmers is scheduled to reach a plea deal in the case in April 20.

Last month, the Attorney General filed criminal charges against Michael Moran-- the owner of Dairy State Cheese Company in Rudolph for taking money belonging to farmers.

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

The attorney for Dairy State Cheese Company told NewsChannel 7 last month, the corporate structure of the business has been restructured and steps have been taken to ensure that nothing like this happens again.

“Mike is no longer president. He's no longer on the board of directors. You know, anything to do with the direction of the company. And we further understand that in connection with the DOJ's action, that anybody who incurred losses will be compensated,” attorney Stew Etten 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.

A witness reported to the USDA that Moran would never send out the check to the milk producers. According to court documents, the witness said after the auditor would leave, Moran would forge the payees’ signatures on the back of the checks and place them in the cash register at the cheese store. The checks would then be taken to the bank at the end of the week.

“The company's obviously saddened by the allegations against the former President Mike Moran. He had given his whole life to the business and the surrounding community,” explained Etten.

The witness told investigators Moran said, “I’ve been doing this for many years and the Federal Order auditors have never caught on to this.”

Investigators identified 83 victims from January 2012 to April 2018. Twenty-one alleged victims are over the age of 60. The amount lost is believed to be $21,250.97.

A criminal charge of theft was filed Jan. 28 in Wood County. The USDA received its first complaint in February 2017.

Moran also waived his right to a preliminary hearing Monday.

He's free on $5,000 signature bond.