At his first arraignment, Vitolins said they asked that Broeg not be allowed to use the company or the Internet any more, but Judge Annette Hillman declined to do so – “so he made at least three more victims after being charged.”
In fact, calls Broeg made from jail after his arrest came up in the trial, Vitolins said. “He’s in custody, and (is told) ‘so and so wants their money because, because they haven’t gotten their hay,’ and he says, ‘Oh – whatever.’”
The DA said Gassner tried to get Schwartz taken off the case, claiming she was somehow tied to postings online, urging victims to call the DA’s office – but Vitolins said her office had nothing to do with those. She also offered post-sentencing praise for the investigating officers, Travis Jurgens and Theresa Plinski, for the time they put in on the case.
Those folks with the red barn in the photo Broeg used? They sold him $8,000 worth of hay, but he “didn’t pay a dime,” Vitolins said. “He was portraying himself as a Central Oregon” resident, she said, when actually “he lived all over the place.”
When a case arose in California of a victim who bought hay from Broeg, officials there considered it a civil matter, not a criminal one, Vitolins said. “We took it on from the consistent pattern and practice” of scamming, she said. “I felt it was hurting Central Oregon agriculture, and he had to be stopped – somebody had to say, ‘No more.’”
In a letter to the judge before sentencing, victim Jolly Martin of Anza, Calif., said, “It is my strong hope this time Mr. Broeg receives a harsh enough sentence to make a lasting impression on him.”
“Because of the nature of his interstate fraud, the court may never know the extent of his crimes,” Martin wrote.
“Some victims lost something harder to replace than money,” Martin added. “They lost hope, promise and opportunity. … I sometimes think of the victim who testified at the trial that she had to sell one of her best horses to pay for feed to replace the hay she brought from Mr. Broeg but never received.”
The DA’s office had sought nearly twice as long a sentence – 50 months – but the judge did tack on several conditions to the three years of post-prison supervision, including the fairly obvious order that Broeg “not engage in fraudulent business activities,” also ordering him to dissolve the Red Barn Hay Co., not contact his victims and “not engage in any internet business transaction as a seller of merchandise or provider of any service,” including “any hay sales.”
With Broeg still sitting in the Crook County Jail, awaiting his trip to state prison, the lesson to others buying hay, online or off, (or anything else, for that matter) is clear, to the prosecutor: “You never pay for anything in full, unless you actually know the person and have done business with them before.”
“Do some kind of transaction you can put a hold on,” Vitolins said. “Put it in escrow -- not released until you get the hay.”