Couple sentenced in Cattle Baron embezzlement

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ROSWELL, N.M. — It was a scheme that cost a local restaurant more than a million dollars, and a married couple just learned just how many years in prison they will serve because of it.

In Chaves County Thursday, Judge James Hudson of New Mexico’s Fifth Judicial District Court sentenced 44-year-old Brian Casaus to 10 years in prison followed by five years on probation. His wife, Tammy Casaus, received one year in prison followed by five years on probation.

They both must also make restitution to both the Cattle Baron Restaurant they had embezzled the money from as well as the New Mexico Department of Taxation & Revenue.

The couple had pled guilty to multiple charges including racketeering, embezzlement, tax fraud and conspiracy to commit tax fraud last April as part of a plea agreement in the case.

Prosecutors say that between 2012 and 2016 the couple diverted more than $1 million from the Cattle Baron’s payroll accounts and placed the money in their own personal accounts.

Court records state that Brian, an office manager and comptroller at Cattle Baron at the time, had “…transmitted $1,110,832.81 in electronic direct deposits from Cattle Baron’s WFB (Wells Fargo Bank) business payroll account into bank accounts owned by Mr. and/or Mrs. Casaus at multiple financial institutions without authorization from Cattle Baron’s owners.” 

Tammy , who was a payroll coordinator with the company, later “admitted to transferring money into multiple accounts she jointly owned. In other words, she layered (transferred) the funds once Mr. Casaus conducted the placement (deposits) into jointly owned accounts.”

Tammy also allegedly failed to include the stolen money on the couple’s income taxes.

It wasn’t until 2018 that a person hired to replace Brian discovered the embezzlement.

Prosecutors say the couple used the money for lavish spending, including new vehicles, vacations and casino gambling.

Andrew Coffing, of the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office and a prosecutor in the case, told the court that the offenses committed by the couple were more than economic crimes – and that the couple had used their possessions of influence to divert money from Cattle Baron.

“It is the type of crime that can totally erode the trust in a company, in this case Cattle Baron,” Coffing said.

Doug Jones Witt, an attorney representing both Tammy and Brian, argued for a lighter sentence. He requested that Hudson sentence Brian to six years rather than ten years in prison. He also argued that Tammy, who he said took a less active role in the wrongdoing, should serve out her entire sentence on probation.

He argued that the couple’s five children rely on Tammy to manage the household and that, unlike her husband, she has a job that the family relies on for income.

“We ask the court to give her a probated sentence your honor. Allow her to stay home, continue working, taking care of the family,” Witt said. 

Because the couple have children, Hudson allowed Brian to remain free on supervised probation while his wife serves her one-year sentence. Once she has completed her sentence, Casaus will begin serving his prison term.

At the end of Thursday’s hearing, Tammy was handcuffed and taken into custody.