Former Minnesota mayor avoids prison, will serve probation for bankruptcy fraud

The former mayor of Kerkhoven, James Rothers pleaded guilty to bankruptcy fraud in 2019 and cooperated with the investigation of the alleged scheme that also led to a conviction against his attorney.

Jim Rothers
We are part of The Trust Project.

ST. PAUL — A former mayor of Kerkhoven, Minnesota, will serve probation for his conviction of fraudulent concealment of bankruptcy assets.

Judge Susan Richard Nelson on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in St. Paul ordered James Rothers, 56, to serve probation for 24 months, according to information from the U.S. District Attorney's Office for Minnesota. Rothers had pleaded guilty to the felony charge on Nov. 7, 2019.

Now disbarred, former Willmar attorney Gregory Anderson pleaded guilty to fraud in hiding business assets of the former Mayor of Kerkhoven in bankruptcy proceedings.
Curtis Lee Moran was ordered to spend a year in federal prison.
Several would-be robbers approached the jewelry store, and one of them showed a gun in an apparent attempt to hold up the store, police said.
"Why should any defendant, however severe the charges against them, be denied the opportunity to review all the evidence collected by law enforcement?"

At that time, the parties had agreed to a sentencing range of 18 to 24 months in prison, according to the plea agreement.

Former Willmar attorney Gregory Ronald Anderson, 63, was sentenced one week earlier to 18 months in federal prison and also ordered to serve one year of supervised release and pay a $20,000 fine for an identical felony charge of fraud.

An investigation by the FBI led to charges against Rothers and Anderson for an alleged scheme to hide business assets of Rothers’ grain bin building companies from creditors. The charges accused them of creating fake liabilities and a fictitious lawsuit to create a bogus judgment of approximately $608,000 against Rothers.


They also created documents to make it appear Rothers owed an Iowa company $240,000. The bogus loan bolstered the appearance of Rothers’ insolvency, according to the U.S. District Attorney’s Office.

Rothers filed for bankruptcy in November 2015 but failed to disclose $100,000 in gold coins; $686,000 in bank deposits for two of his companies; and $455,484 in uncashed checks.

Rothers had the assets to pay his creditors easily, according to the court records. Rothers secreted away more than $1 million in assets in what the district attorney’s office termed a “senseless attempt” to avoid paying $173,591 owed creditors.

U.S. District Attorney Andrew Luger and Assistant Attorney Jordan Sing supported a sentence below the guidelines in papers filed with the court. While they stated that “greed is the only explanation for Rothers’ crime,” the prosecutors said he deserves a lesser sentence for “seeing the errors of his ways.”

The attorneys stated, “Rothers fully accepted responsibility, cooperated in the investigation, and ensured his creditors were repaid.”

More by Tom Cherveny:
The Madison, Minnesota, station is unabashedly local, featuring high school sports, talk shows with local guests and community news.
Bird feed along Minnesota roadways makes pheasants more vulnerable to predators, disease and traffic, while doing little to help. It’s rare to find starved pheasants; cold is the real menace.
Without comment but on a unanimous vote, Prinsburg City Council members in a special meeting Friday, Dec. 2, denied a proposed ordinance that would have allowed residents to bring civil lawsuits against abortion providers.
Nets pulled this fall show that an eight-year-long effort to restore lake sturgeon to the waters of Big Stone Lake and Upper Minnesota River watershed is producing results.

Rothers, who divorced in 2014, remarried his longtime girlfriend in 2021. They live in a mobile RV with a South Dakota address while continuing to construct grain bins across the country, according to papers filed with the court by his attorney, Christopher Madel of Minneapolis.

The defense attorney asked the court to impose a sentence of probation rather than prison. He told the court that Rothers has taken full responsibility for his mistakes, and lived an exemplary life since this matter arose.

He said Rothers did not live in luxury during the time he committed the offense, and is “kind, generous and humble." The attorney also wrote: “Through hard work and dedication, he has achieved incredible success building grain bins for our nation’s heartland.”


James Rothers and the city of Kerkhoven remain at odds over the 54-foot tower he built in front of his property along U.S. Highway 12 on the town's west end.
James Rothers and the city of Kerkhoven were at odds over the 54-foot tower he built in front of his property along U.S. Highway 12 on the town's west end.
Tom Cherveny / Tribune

Rothers resigned as mayor of Kekhoven only months into his term in 2017. He had taken the city to court over a 54-foot-tall concrete tower he built on his property along U.S. Highway 12 on the city’s west end.

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoors reporter for the West Central Tribune.
He has been a reporter with the West Central Tribune since 1993.

Cherveny can be reached via email at or by phone at 320-214-4335.
What To Read Next
The Cass County Sheriff’s Office responded to the crash, reported at 9:38 a.m. in Maple Township, west of Pequot Lakes.
Willis Mattison with the Save the Trees Coalition is calling on Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and others to intervene with tree removal along a scenic byway.
About 1 out of 200 babies are born with congenital cytomegalovirus
The Department of Corrections issued a similar capacity reduction order to Beltrami County on Jan. 27