Rancher gets probation and fine for smuggling

November 19, 2004
CBC News

A cattle rancher was sentenced to a year of unsupervised probation Friday for smuggling rodeo bulls into the United States last year, defying a ban that forbade the import of live cattle from Canada.

Albertan Gregory Kesler, 59, was also fined $200 US by a Montana judge who said he was disappointed in the rancher for breaking the code of the West, which says a rancher's word is his bond.

Felon? PRCA says no problem

Even though Greg Kesler is a convicted felon for putting all Americans at risk of mad cow disease by smuggling bulls into the United States, the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA) is still giving him awards.

In 2008, Kesler Championship Rodeo tied for the PRCA stock of the year award with the horse Cool Alley of Kesler Championship Rodeo.

Immediately following his conviction, Kesler is still welcomed to the National Finals Rodeo.

From the 2004 NFR: Bobby Mote finished in a strong third place with an 84-point ride on Alley Trail (Kesler Championship Rodeo).

Kesler pleaded guilty in August to smuggling 23 bulls to the U.S. on June 23, 2003, by hiding them among a shipment of horses.

He also smuggled six bulls into the U.S. in January 2004.

The U.S. import ban was put in place on May 20, 2003.

Following the sentencing, Kesler's lawyer Greg Jackson defended his client's actions, saying ranchers weren't given enough notice of the embargo. "All of his stock was in Canada and he had rodeo commitments in the United States ... there was no way to get replacements ... he made a bad decision."

And a costly one, adds Jackson. "It's had a major impact on Mr. Kesler. He now has a felony conviction. He has $71,000 in fines and lost 27 animals."

Ben Thorlakson, head of the Canada Beef Export Federation says the bulls should have been returned to Canada, not destroyed.

"This has absolutely nothing to do with food safety. There's no animal health threat here at all," said Thorlakson.


Albertan smuggled bulls to U.S.

Sat, August 7, 2004

By CP, The Calgary Sun

MISSOULA -- An Alberta rancher has pleaded guilty to smuggling rodeo bulls across the U.S. border in violation of the current ban on Canadian cattle imports. Greg Kesler, 59, of Magrath, entered guilty pleas in July to two counts of fraudulently importing live ruminants.

The maximum penalty for the offence is five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

The veteran Canadian rodeo stock promoter will be sentenced Nov. 5.

The U.S. border has remained closed to live Canadian cattle since a case of mad cow disease was discovered in Alberta in May 2003.

The U.S. Department of Justice said Kesler hid 23 bulls in a shipment of horses to get them across the border in June 2003.

Kesler also brought another six bulls across the border last January, said officials.

An investigation was launched in the spring after rumours flooded the rodeo circuit that bulls had been brought across the border illegally.

Kesler already paid a $600 US fine for state permit violations related to transporting the animals.

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