ND county files felony criminal case against troubled grain dealer

ND Public Service Commission to file insolvency case against companies owned by Hunter Hanson
Hunter Brian Hanson, 21, of Leeds, N.D., is chief executive officer of NoDak Grain and Midwest Grain Trading, Devils Lake, N.D. Derek Fletcher / Forum News Service

BISMARCK — The Mountrail County State’s Attorney has filed a felony criminal complaint against financially troubled grain dealer Hunter Hanson of Leeds for issuing a $94,000 bounced check for grain transactions.

In a separate civil case, a Mountrail County farmer has filed suit in Eddy County to recover $111,000 for a separate bounced check from one of Hanson’s companies.

Meanwhile, a North Dakota Public Service Commission official on Tuesday, Dec. 11, said the agency is “days” away from filing insolvency actions grain businesses Hanson runs.

Konrad Crockford, PSC director of compliance, said Hanson, 21, did not respond by a Dec. 5 deadline to request a hearing on a cease and desist order, which the PSC had imposed against his grain-trading companies Nov. 21.

Crockford said a separate but related insolvency action for Midwest Grain Trading, a roving grain buying company, will be filed in Burleigh County in Bismarck. Another separate insolvency action against Nodak Grain, with two warehouses in rural Devils Lake and Rugby, will be filed in Ramsey County at Devils Lake, where the companies have an office.

The three-member PSC would likely have to schedule another special meeting to trigger the court action.

The PSC became alerted on Nov. 8 when several patrons complained that the company had failed to pay for grain on time or had bounced checks. Randy Christmann, a PSC commissioner with the grain regulation portfolio, wasn’t immediately available to comment on the pace or status of the agency action.

Roger Harstad, a farmer from Palermo in Mountrail County, on Nov. 27 filed a civil suit in Eddy County, alleging Midwest Grain Trading failed to pay $111.888.25 for bushels of hard red spring wheat.

In the complaint, Harstad said he shipped grain between Aug. 7 and Sept. 15. Hanson paid with a check dated Sept. 24. The check was returned for insufficient funds on Nov. 9. Harstad is represented by Derrick Braaten of Bismarck.

On Monday, Dec. 10, Mountrail County State’s Attorney Wade Enget filed a citation against Hanson for issuing a non-sufficient fund check of $94,480.41 written to United Quality Cooperative on Oct. 26. The co-op is based in New Town with facilities in Parshall and Ross.

The charge is a Class C felony, Enget said. If convicted, the maximum penalty would be five years in the state penitentiary, with no mandatory minimum. The maximum fine is $10,000 plus restitution. Enget acknowledged he could have waited for the North Dakota Attorney General’s office to act if issues had crossed jurisdictions.

“That would only delay it,” Enget said. “My thought is, you get after it. No. 1, it is a crime. No. 2, it happened in Mountrail County.”

Hanson had said previously his companies have traded some $23 million in grain. His roving grain buyer license was established by the PSC in May 2017, after complaints the previous months that he was operating without a license, which requires a bond.

Crockford and Christmann said the PSC had received calls totaling more than $5 million in troubled transactions, some including bounced checks. Hanson has told Agweek that bounced checks might only involve $700,000 and that they were part of a mixup in his offices.

On Tuesday, Hanson declined further comment.