BISMARCK, NORTH DAKOTA, U.S. — Hunter B. Hanson of Leeds, North Dakota, U.S., has agreed to plead guilty to charges of wire fraud and money laundering in connection with an $11 million fraud scheme that affected approximately 60 farmers, elevators and commodity brokers in North Dakota, Minnesota and Canada. As part of his plea, Hanson has agreed to pay full restitution in the amount of $11,405,134.72.
According to the Information and Plea Agreement, between January 2018 and December 2018 Hanson executed a scheme with intent to defraud, contracted with multiple farmers and grain elevators to obtain grain or other agricultural commodities, obtained these commodities, and either failed to pay the farmers and elevators for these commodities or sent these farmers and elevators non-sufficient funds checks.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of North Dakota said Hanson maintained multiple bank accounts, engaged in check kiting to cover his deposits and withdrawals, and laundered money between his bank accounts and other businesses. He also purchased agricultural commodities from farmers and elevators above the per bushel market value and then sold the same commodities below the per bushel market value, the U.S. Attorney’s Office noted.
After Hanson failed to pay farmers and elevators for the agricultural commodities he obtained, he sent email communications trying to lull the affected parties into a false sense of security, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
“As is outlined in the Plea Agreement, Hanson operated a multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme that victimized dozens of North Dakota and Canadian farmers and businesses,” said Jonathan O’Konek, assistant U.S. attorney. “Due to the diligent efforts of state, local, and federal law enforcement, Hanson will be held accountable for his actions. The United States Attorney’s Office is committed to investigating white collar crimes and will continue to prosecute those individuals who violate federal law.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the United States will recommend a sentence within the applicable sentencing guidelines range, recommend that Hanson serve a three-year period of supervised release, and agree not to charge Hanson with any additional federal economic crimes related to his charged scheme to defraud, which occurred prior to the date Hanson signed the Plea Agreement.