ASHLEY, N.D. — A South Dakota cattle feedlot operator has been ordered to serve 180 days in jail for writing a bad check to a North Dakota cattle buyer.

Robert "Bob" Blom, 58, on Sept. 16 pleaded guilty to Class C felony issuing check or draft without sufficient funds or credit.

 Judge Cherie Clark sentenced Blom to five years in the custody of the North Dakota Department of Corrections, with all but 180 days suspended, said McIntosh County State’s Attorney Mary Depuydt. She said Clark also ordered Blom to be on supervised probation for three years, followed by five years of unsupervised probation.

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Blom formerly operated a feedlot in Corsica, S.D. First Dakota National Bank, based in Yankton, in February determined Blom owed principal of $6.74 million to the bank, with additional interest at more than $1,000 per day. The bank foreclosed, and officials discovered Blom may have been operating a Ponzi-like scheme in which he would resell the same cattle over and over again and collect feeding bills from customers on what often were non-existent cattle.

Court documents list 53 people in 14 cattle-related entities in South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana as "interested party defendants." Officials believe the case could involve 30,000 head of "missing" or phantom cattle, valued at more than $30 million.

Paul Gader, a Lehr, N.D., cattle buyer, runs Gader Livestock, which court documents say bought 146 heifers and 120 steers for Blom’s feedlots for $269,674.26. Blom’s check to pay Gader for half that purchase bounced. The other half of the funds came from a "feeding partner" for Blom, whom Gader declined to identify citing advice from his attorney. The funds from Blom went unpaid, resulting in the felony check charge out of McIntosh County.

Blom was ordered to pay $134,837.14 in restitution to Gader Livestock. Depuydt said Blom will be on a $275-per-month payment plan. Gader did not return a call seeking comment.