PSC member raises questions about 'plea deal' in grain insolvency case | Prairie Public Broadcasting

PSC member raises questions about 'plea deal' in grain insolvency case

Jul 4, 2019

A member of the North Dakota Public Service Commission is raising some questions concerning a plea deal federal prosecutors reached with a grain trader from Leeds, who investigators allege was running his grain business like a Ponzi scheme.

Under the deal, 22 year old Hunter Hanson will plead guilty to federal charges of money laundering and wire fraud. He operated grain elevators in Tunbridge and Rohrville, and had a roving grain buyer’s license.

The deal said Hanson will forfeit his assets, and he will pay restitution of $11.4 million, owed to creditors.

The PSC, meanwhile, was appointed as bankruptcy trustee in state court. And Commissioner Randy Christmann said  he has some questions about what’s described in that plea deal.

"It's unknown to us how much the prosecutors are going to be able to capture," Christmann said. "I hope it's a lot."

Christmann said he thinks a lot of people may have been led to believe that they’re getting all their money back.

"Just me personally -- I find it hard to imagine that he (Hunter) has that kind of money that can be captured, especially when he's been sitting in jail all spring," Christmann said.

Christmann said there is some doubt about how much will be paid back to producers.

Meanwhile, Christmann said the PSC’s process continues.

"Our team is working dilgently, and is making good progress," Christmann said. "Hopefully it won't be too much longer, and we'll have a report into the courts."

Christmann says the grain has been sold, and the PSC is waiting for the proceeds. He said some money for claimants will also come from the grain indemnity fund.  Christmann said staff is now looking at the claims, to see which ones are legitimate, and which aren’t.