Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal
Paul Donisthorpe and Darrell Pitchford were competitors showing cattle at the New Mexico State Fair when Donisthorpe got tired of Pitchford winning all the prizes.
So Donisthorpe pitched the idea of them going into business together. Eight years later, Pitchford rues the day he agreed to the partnership.
“I never want to hear his name again in my life,” Pitchford said last week in a telephone interview from his Athens, Texas, ranch.
Donisthorpe had been the “money man” for the 100-head Corazon-Pitchford cattle operation that featured prized Santa Gertrudis cows.
But it turns out a large chunk of the cash Donisthorpe had been pumping into the business came from the trust accounts of vulnerable and special needs clients whose accounts Donisthorpe managed at the Albuquerque-based Desert State Life Management.
“It’s like when you’re on top of the world and you get your chair pulled out from under you,” Pitchford said. He said he had no idea Donisthorpe had swindled Desert State trust clients until the news broke in Albuquerque last June.
“He was really, really slick,” Pitchford said. “He was good as gold to my family. Super nice. We never argued. We were building a really good herd.”
Donisthorpe served as deputy New Mexico State Fair director in the 1980s, but he and another top fair official resigned in 1989 amid reports of financial mismanagement.
After the Desert State revelations came to light, Pitchford discovered Donisthorpe hadn’t paid $300,000 owed to TransOva, a firm that helped with cow embryo placement and development at their Texas cattle operation.
Unbeknownst to Pitchford, Donisthorpe also had changed the articles of incorporation to show he owned 67 percent of the Corazon-Pitchford cattle company. Pitchford said they agreed to Donisthorpe’s owning 51 percent.
“From the very beginning, when they founded the company, Donisthorpe was already cheating him,” said Scott Fuqua of Santa Fe, Pitchford’s attorney.
“I’ve got a long ways to go to pay off all the debt,” Pitchford said, saying he can relate to the plight of the trust clients who were robbed.
“Heck, I was as much a victim as they were.”
The cattle operation is among the assets state and federal investigators are hoping to tap for victim restitution.
New Mexico Financial Securities Division senior counsel Kevin Graham and FID acting chief Christopher Moya traveled to Texas to check out the prospects of recovery.
“It turns out the value of cattle is a lot less than we hoped,” Graham said. “Maybe thousands, but certainly not hundreds of thousands.”
Pitchford nevertheless will be negotiating a settlement with the state, state officials said.
Pitchford plans to start over with a new financial backer but is “pretty much” out of luck in trying to recover his losses, Fuqua said.
“He would be drilling the same dry hole that everybody else is drilling, and that’s Donisthorpe.”