Cattle fraud case leads to new charges against family, claims of retaliation


By Curt Prendergast The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson

Feb 4, 2019


A month after Seth Nichols was led out of a federal courtroom in handcuffs, both his parents now are accused of stealing $1.6 million worth of cattle from a Marana, Ariz., family, as well as retaliating against them.


Nichols, 29, pleaded guilty to a multi-million dollar bank fraud while working as the office manager of the Marana Stockyards and Livestock Market, owned by Clay Parsons and his family. While Nichols serves a five-year prison sentence and pays back $3 million in restitution, his parents now face 11 felony counts for their alleged role in the theft, according to an updated indictment filed Jan. 23 in U.S. District Court in Tucson.


The fraud unfolded over four years and destroyed the longtime friendship between the Nichols family and the Parsons, who Seth Nichols told a federal judge treated him “like a son.” At an emotional sentencing hearing in late December, six members of the Parsons family described dealing with their betrayal by a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” sleepless nights worrying about the future of the stockyard and baseless accusations from Seth Nichols and some Marana residents that the Parsons were to blame for the theft.


Seth Nichols admitted to using the stockyard’s funds and line of credit to buy cattle for his family’s brokerage company, which sold the cattle without paying back the stockyard. He then falsified financial records to make it appear as though his family’s company had paid the stockyard for the cattle, according to his plea agreement.


A federal grand jury indicted Seth’s father, Donald Hugh Nichols, on charges of bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud in August. With the Jan. 23 updated indictment, he and his wife, Jane Ann Nichols, both were charged with those crimes, as well as wire fraud, accused of stealing $1.6 million worth of livestock and retaliating against the victim of the theft.


The retaliation charge stems from a meeting between the Nichols and the Parsons days after the theft was discovered in August 2017. At that meeting, the Nichols signed over their house and another property in Pinal County, which combined were worth more than $1 million, to the Parsons.


In February, Seth Nichols pleaded guilty to federal bank fraud, including...