Good-quality hay is a lifeblood for horse lovers, farmers and ranchers across Oregon’s High Desert and elsewhere. And the Internet is a lifeline for those seeking to buy or sell anything — including hay. But the ever-present dark side of the Web — scams — led to a more than two-year investigation and court case that finally came to a conclusion on Friday the 13th in a Prineville courtroom.
That’s when Mark Franklin Broeg, 57, was sentenced by Crook County Circuit Judge Gary Williams to 26 months in prison. Broeg also was ordered to pay nearly $40,000 worth of restitution and $12,000 in investigative costs, dating back to when District Attorney Daina Vitolins first learned what he was up to.
The sentence was imposed more than three months after a jury found the Portland-area man guilty of racketeering — operating a criminal enterprise, in this case “Red Barn Hay Company,” complete with a Facebook photo of a red barn that actually belongs to a Kansas couple who owns property in Deschutes County, Vitolins said Sunday.
Vitolins said it quickly became clear that Broeg was exploiting the strong reputation of Central Oregon hay in two directions — buying hay without paying for it, then advertising and selling thousands of dollars of hay without delivering it.