Farmers and elevators who are owed money from grain trader Hunter Hanson will get some money.
But it won’t be enough to make them whole.
Hanson owned Midwest Grain Trading – a roving grain buyer – and NoDak Grain, which had elevators in Tunbridge and Rohrville. He pleaded guilty to federal charges of money laundering and wire fraud. The case against Hanson says the Devils Lake-based grain trader defrauded at least 60 farmers and other grain brokers in North Dakota, Minnesota and Canada for more than $11 million. The two companies were declared insolvent, and the PSC was named trustee over the companies.
In its recommendation to the Court, the Commission found 45 claims, totaling more than $7.3 million, to be valid – and they would receive just under $1.4 million from Hanson’s trust fund. Commissioner Randy Christmann said that’s about 19 percent of what they’re owed. In addition, 7 creditors who had credit sale contracts would receive about 80 percent - $670,000 out of $837,000 in claims.
"Frankly, I'm a little emotional with this case," Christmann said. "There's been a tragic crime committed, and a lot of people are going to lose a lot of money."
The commissioners say they tried over several Legislative sessions to give them more tools to help farmers who are hurt by this kind of insolvency – to no avail. And this was the last case of its kind the PSC is handling – since grain inspections have been transferred to the state Agriculture Department.
"It breaks my heart," Christmann said. "We're assigned the task of trying to mop up here a little bit, and do the best we can for the victims. But we only have the tools available to us. They're not enough."
A Ramsey County district judge will hold a hearing on the insolvency next June. Hanson awaits sentencing on the federal charges against him.