WESTMORELAND — A father and daughter tied to the region’s historic Chickering Dairy Farm are being sued for an alleged scheme that involves bribery and slaughterhouse fraud, according to court records.
Susan Chickering, and her father, Arthur Chickering, both from Westmoreland, are named as defendants in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Vermont.
The suit alleges the Chickerings overcharged a food distributor $173,976 for pork and beef they provided.
Susan Chickering’s attorney, Ritchie Berger, did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.
The plaintiff in the case, Massachusetts-based Walden Local Inc., claims Arthur Chickering bribed an employee at a Vermont slaughterhouse as part of a scheme to overcharge Walden.
Jeffrey Nichols, of Rutland, Vt., a former slaughterhouse employee, is also named as a defendant.
Walden had a contract with Susan Chickering to buy beef and pork from her farm, according to the lawsuit. Walden also had a contract with the Vermont Packing House, the Springfield, Vt., slaughterhouse where the Chickerings’ livestock was slaughtered. Walden is a food distributor that specializes in using local produce and meat.
Susan Chickering had her father act as an agent for her business with Walden. He oversaw getting the cattle and pigs delivered to the Vermont Packing House.
At the slaughterhouse, the livestock was weighed when it first arrived and again after the animals had been slaughtered and cleaned.
Arthur Chickering allegedly bribed Nichols, then the chief slaughterer at Vermont Packing House, to doctor the recorded weight of the animals in order to bill Walden more for the meat, the lawsuit claims.
The alleged scheme resulted in Walden being overcharged $173,976 in 2017 and 2018, and Vermont Packing House being overpaid $49,492, according to the lawsuit.
Management at Vermont Packing House learned of the alleged scheme in November and fired Nichols, the lawsuit states.
The company then alerted Walden, according to the lawsuit. Walden withheld four invoices from Susan Chickering, totaling more than $127,000, covering the time Nichols worked at the packing house, according to the lawsuit.
Walden is seeking restitution for the money it says it was overcharged, as well as attorney fees, according to the suit.
The Chickering Dairy Farm on Route 63 in Westmoreland is the largest dairy farm in the region with a history going back 200 years.
Earlier this year, Arthur Chickering II, 85, entered into an agreement with the Monadnock Conservancy to make sure his the 350-acre farm with 400 dairy cows would remain a working dairy farm in perpetuity.