The day after the patriarch of one of Washington’s largest agriculture operations died in a head-on crash in December, four of his family’s commercial properties went into default.
Rabo AgriFinance wants its money back, and is asking a federal court to foreclose on the Franklin County properties and order Gale Easterday’s widow, two of his children and a daughter-in-law to pay up.
The properties are large onion and potato packing and storage facilities in Pasco and Basin City.
Within two months, the nearly $1 million line-of-credit loan had racked up $58,000 in unpaid interest on the contract and the default.
And in the three months since, it has continued to accrue interest of about $580 daily at a 21% rate.
The international agricultural lender Rabo AgriFinance has filed a new lawsuit in U.S. District Court against 3E Properties, along with Karen Easterday, Debby and Cody Easterday, and Jody Easterday.
Karen, Debby and Cody Easterday all are general partners of Easterday Farms, and Jody Easterday and husband Andrew H. Wills have interest in the mortgaged properties, the suit says.
“The loan is in default and has not been paid,” the lender said in its April 21 filing for breach of the loan agreement.
The complaint further states that Easterday Farms could not be included as a defendant in the civil action because of a stay in place since Easterday Farms filed a voluntary bankruptcy petition on Feb. 8.
However, that bankruptcy filing by one-half of the Easterday conglomerate “was a separate and independent default” under the loan agreement. The first was Gale Easterday’s Dec. 10 death.
Easterday legal troubles
The Easterday family, and its farming and ranching operations, have been mired in legal troubles for nearly four months.
In January, Tyson Foods sued in Franklin County Superior Court accusing Easterday Ranches of bilking the meat processor out of more than $225 million by charging for buying and feeding of 200,000 cattle that never existed.
That was followed by the first of two Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings by the Mesa-based family in federal court.
The cattle ranch listed debts of just under $237 million to its top 20 creditors.
Then, the farming side filed for its own bankruptcy protection, showing debts of nearly $18 million to its top 20 creditors.
In March, Cody Easterday — president and chief executive officer of the family’s companies — admitted concocting the scheme to defraud Tyson and another company in what federal prosecutors have dubbed a “ghost-cattle scam.”
The total loss was more than $244 million. The money was used to offset about $200 million lost in commodity futures contracts trading.
Easterday, 49, faces up to 20 years in prison for his guilty plea to one count of wire fraud, and must pay full restitution for the money he stole.
Sentencing is set Aug. 4.
He has been ordered not to leave the state of Washington in the interim, and had to surrender his passport to the U.S. Probation Office.
But last week, Easterday got permission from a judge to travel to the Boise area from May 16-22 for the birth of a grandchild.
The family’s operations started in the late 1950s when Ervin Easterday moved from Idaho to farm in the new Columbia Basin Reclamation Irrigation project.
Gale Easterday eventually took over for his dad, and worked with wife Karen and their five children on their different properties throughout Eastern Washington.
Last December, the 79-year-old died when he drove the wrong way on Interstate 182 in Pasco. His pickup hit head-on with an Easterday potato truck.
Easterday Farms has an office in downtown Pasco.
According to the recent lawsuit filing by Rabo, Gale Easterday’s death “resulted in an Event of Default” under the terms of their credit and loan agreements.
The mortgage on the first two properties — 5235 Industrial Way along Highway 395 in north Pasco and 1427 N. First Ave. in downtown — were included in a credit loan agreement with Rabo in 2009.
The mortgage on the other two properties — 90 and 110 Pillsbury Road in Basin City — then was added into a master credit agreement in 2018.
Cody Easterday and Easterday Farms then did a “QuickLine Credit Application and Account Agreement” with Rabo in March 2020.
The complaint states that as of Feb. 8 — two months after Gale Easterday’s death — the loan amount had grown to $1,053,245 in principal and interest.
The case has been assigned to Chief Judge Stanley A. Bastian, who also is presiding over Cody Easterday’s criminal case.
No trial date has been set in the civil case.