Broward County properties busted for 'rent-a-cow' practice

127 properties lose agricultural exemptions after property appraiser's audits

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Broward Property Appraiser's Office busted 127 properties it says used agricultural exemptions to receive big tax breaks -- a practice commonly called "rent-a-cow."

After a Local 10 investigation found Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) received a tax break for having a few cows on its property in Southwest Ranches, Broward Property Appraiser Lori Parrish's office stripped the private prison company of what she said was a bogus agricultural exemption.

"The exemption was removed, there's been no protest," she said.

The removal will add $50,000 to county coffers.

"You need a lot of money to run our town, instead of spending it and frivolously giving tax breaks to all the corporations," said Jill, who lives in Southwest Ranches.

For $10 a year, CCA had a contract with land seller Ron Bergeron to provide cows on the property, a practice used by many landowners to avoid paying taxes. Parrish said the company was unable to provide evidence that it ever had cows on the property.

"I think that's just an absurd idea -- to rent a cow -- and be able to get the ag exemption on the property," said local activist Ryann Greenberg.

The property appraiser's office has audited 10 percent of county properties claiming agricultural exemptions.

"Lots of properties have lost classifications," said Parrish. "We look at properties on an ongoing basis."

Included in those 127 properties that lost their agriculture exemptions were ones owned by former Miami Marlin Charles Johnson and Miami Dolphin Zach Thomas.

"When you cheat the system, you cheat all of us and all of us pay more," said Parrish.

Parrish said the county has lost hundreds of millions of dollars because of bogus agricultural exemptions.