Sons arrested in theft from Waffle House CEO’s ranch; animal cruelty alleged | PostIndependent.com

Sons arrested in theft from Waffle House CEO’s ranch; animal cruelty alleged

Two sons of a Silt couple accused in a years-long string of embezzlement from Bear Wallow Ranch have turned themselves in on warrants charging felony theft stemming from the same case.

In June, Garfield County authorities arrested Charles "Zane" Farris and Charla Farris in a long series of thefts that investigators say total in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, possibly more than $1 million. The Farrises worked for more than 25 years as ranch manager and bookkeeper, respectively.

In 2012, the couple got word that the ranch owners, Waffle House CEO Joe Rogers Jr. and his wife, planned to sell the property. And though the Farrises were supposed to stay on working at Bear Wallow, investigators say they started funneling Bear Wallow money to their own ranch. Authorities have accused the family of embezzlement of money, livestock and equipment.

The Garfield County Sheriff's Office issued warrants last week for the sons, 25-year-old Tyler Farris and 22-year-old Dustin Farris, who turned themselves in to Mesa County authorities the next day. Both of them worked for the ranch at one time.

Tyler Farris was arrested on charges of felony theft between $5,000 and $20,000, felony possession of a dangerous weapon and misdemeanor cruelty to animals.

Dustin Farris was arrested on felony theft between $5,000 and $20,000.

In their arrest reports, investigators wrote that "there is also evidence that [the two sons] knew about and benefited from the theft." Both of them took checks for their work at the ranch and lived at Bear Wallow for a time. The ranch owners, however, say that much of this work was left undone.

Similar to the accusations against his parents, Tyler Farris had been using Bear Wallow checks for thousands of dollars in purchases of equipment and materials that weren't used at Bear Wallow, according to his arrest report. Rather, investigators believe this money was used for his private rodeo bull company. Tyler Farris owns the companies Tyler Farris Bucking Bulls and Outcast Productions.

"Tyler runs a Bucking Bull business that is very expensive and doesn't seem to make sense given his smaller hourly wages at Bear Wallow," an investigator wrote in the arrest report.

Dustin Farris too had used numerous Bear Wallow checks, totaling thousands of dollars, for items not used at the ranch, authorities allege. And Charla Farris had made out numerous checks to Dustin, which were then coded in the ranch's books under different titles, like "Napa" or "Car Quest" or "Northwestern Performance."

"The Farrises were paying their son, Tyler, from Bear Wallow payroll, an amount commensurate with full-time employment at Bear Wallow Ranch during periods when he was, in fact, documented to have been elsewhere working at his own, private, rodeo-bull operation," according to investigators. "The victims also believe that Tyler's rodeo-bull operation had possibly been at least partially funded with the company's money/resources without authorization."

The FBI's office in Glenwood Springs also got involved tracing Tyler's spending.

"From approximately June 2009 through August 2016, Tyler Farris used Bear Wallow funds in furtherance of his rodeo business, Outcast Productions," the FBI investigator wrote. "The funds were used to provide veterinary care, repairs on his Peterbilt Truck to haul his stock, brand inspections, health certificates, building materials and other business-related expenses. Initial review of traceable funds related to the fraud total approximately $15,420.18."

FBI investigators believed more illicitly spent Bear Wallow funds would be discovered connected to Tyler, and they believed more money was spent to promote his business, but that money was mixed in with other Farris Ranch expenses.

"The extent of the theft involving the livestock is still currently under investigation," a Garfield County investigator wrote.

Tyler Farris also picked up a couple more charges: felony possession of a dangerous weapon for a short-barreled shotgun found in his residence and misdemeanor animal cruelty for a group of emaciated horses found on land he was leasing.

On a property Tyler Farris leased to keep livestock, a brand inspector found five horses in very bad shape — so bad that he feared they might die if he left them there, according to an arrest report.

An investigator wrote that photos of these horses were "shocking" and that they appeared to be emaciated.

All of the horses were deemed clinically dehydrated. All of them needed dental care, and one was unsteady on its feet. When they were released into another pasture, they rushed as fast as they could toward the water and drank for more than 20 minutes. Four of them "suffered a colic episode from drinking," then went right back to drinking more.

The two brothers will be in Garfield County district court on July 26 for appearances on bond. Their parents are scheduled to appear next in court on Sept. 21.