Any small business owner will tell you: It pays to hire the right staff. Unfortunately, hiring wrong can lead to significant losses.

A Cooke County, Texas, rancher experienced the latter last year when an employee sold more than $6,000 worth of his boss’ cattle in his girlfriend’s name and pocketed the proceeds.

Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association Special Ranger Troy McKinney said James Paul Woodard, a 55-year-old from Gainesville, was indicted by a Cooke County grand jury on June 23. He’ll face second-degree felony charges due to the victim’s advanced age. The grand jury determined Woodard’s girlfriend did not have knowledge of the illegal sales.

In October, the victim reached out to the Overbrook Stockyards in Overbrook, Oklahoma, because he had reason to believe some of his cattle had been sold without permission. The auction market’s secretary contacted Troy McKinney, whose investigation proved Woodard had not only sold cattle there, but also at the Decatur Livestock Auction in Decatur, Texas. He always put the cattle in his girlfriend’s name to lower suspicion. While the couple owns four cows, it was not enough to produce the number of calves Woodard sold.

McKinney said this case is a good reminder to thoroughly vet out potential employees and to continue to monitor both them and your cattle.

“Theft is devastating for a rancher, who is also battling high input costs, weather and market volatility,” McKinney said. “But it’s always a little worse when it’s someone you trusted.”

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