24 star saved the world... but couldn’t spot a Ponzi scheme

Kiefer Sutherland loses $900,000 in Mexican cattle scam

His on-screen character, the terrorist-swatting Jack Bauer from the white-knuckle action drama 24, is not the kind of man you would readily want to double cross having saved the world eight times over at the last count - each in the space of a single day. Come to that the real-life Kiefer Sutherland is no push over either.

Today however it emerged that the Anglo-Canadian son of 60s screen hero Donald Sutherland is facing a bill of $869,000 (£540,000) after falling foul of an alleged cattle-fraud.

Sutherland, 43, who spent time out from the pressures of Hollywood in the late-90s in a rodeo ranch in Montana, has been co-operating with prosecutors in California investigating a suspected Ponzi-scheme by a cattle manager and competitive steer-roping promoter Michael Wayne Carr.

The saga began when Sutherland was put in touch with Carr through a financial adviser who checked out a deal buy up cattle steers in Mexico and sell them for a profit across the border in the United States.

Sutherland invested $550,000 in the scheme and within 30 days of the initial investment, Carr wired him $685,000 – a $130,000 profit, according to the documents filed in court.

When he was offered the same deal a few months later, the money was paid but no cows appeared, it is alleged. Prosecutors say the money was used by Mr Carr to pay off a huge debt.

A couple from New Mexico couple also lost their $177,000 (£109,000) investment while a Colorado cattle mover lost $400,000 (£246,000) on the deal that never was. Mr Carr is expected to appear in court next month on 12 felony charges, among them multiple counts of grand theft, forgery, embezzlement, obtaining money by false pretenses and falsifying corporate books. If convicted he faces up to 18 years in prison.

According to reports from the San Joaquin County District Attorney's office Sutherland has been “very friendly and helpful” with the investigation team.

But the loss is small beer for the Golden Globe-winning star who recently signed a three-year contract worth $40m (£24m) to appear in the hugely popular Fox TV series which has been accused of glamourising violence and xenophobia in the wake of September 11 not least after it was praised by former Vice President Dick Cheney as his favourite show. It is currently in its eighth series.

In 2007 Sutherland served 48 days in prison in Los Angeles on a drink driving charge. He was also accused last year of head butting a designer during a late night row at a New York nightclub though charges were later dropped.

The star was inspired to buy a 900 acre ranch after appearing in films Young Guns and The Cowboy Way. He gave up acting and travelled on the rodeo circuit and even won prizes for his roping skills.

"I got into roping mainly because I was up in Montana," he said in an interview last year. “I moved up there to ski, and I didn't know what to do in the off-season. And if I don't have something to do, I get myself in a lot of trouble,” he added.