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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of North Dakota

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, June 17, 2019

Leeds, ND, Man Signs Plea Agreement in an $11 Million Dollar Fraud Scheme

BISMARCK – First Assistant U.S. Attorney Nick Chase announced that on June 17, 2019, the United States District Court for the District of North Dakota unsealed an Information charging Hunter Brian Hanson, age 22, of Leeds, ND, with Wire Fraud, Money Laundering, and a Forfeiture allegation.   Additionally, the United States District Court unsealed a Plea Agreement signed by Hanson articulating his intent to plead guilty to these charges.

Under the terms of the Plea Agreement, Hanson has agreed to plead guilty to charges of wire fraud and money laundering and will admit to a forfeiture allegation for his assets, which are proceeds of the aforementioned crimes.  Additionally, Hanson agreed to pay full restitution in the amount of $11,405,134.72.  The United States will recommend a sentence within the applicable sentencing guidelines range, recommend that he 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.

The Information and Plea Agreement state, from January 2018 to December 2018, Hanson, executed a scheme to defraud approximately 60 farmers, elevators, or commodity brokers in North Dakota, Minnesota, and Canada.  As a result, these approximately 60 farmers, elevators, or brokers suffered a total financial loss of approximately $11,405,134.72.  Specifically, Hanson, 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. 

Hanson, as part of this scheme to defraud, maintained multiple bank accounts, engaged in check kiting to cover his deposits and withdrawals, laundered money between his bank accounts and other businesses, and often did not have sufficient funds in his bank accounts when he remitted payments to farmers and elevators for money owed on the agricultural commodities purchasing contracts.  Moreover, Hanson diverted funds from his grain business accounts to other personal and business accounts.  Additionally, Hanson purchased agricultural commodities from farmers and elevators above their per bushel market value and then sold these same commodities below their per bushel market value.  Finally, after Hanson failed to pay farmers and elevators for the agricultural commodities he obtained, he sent email communications, to lull farmers, elevators, or brokers into a false sense of security, to postpone inquiries, or to make his transactions between the farmers, elevators, or brokers less suspect.

Assistant United States Attorney Jonathan O’Konek 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.  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.”

At the present time and until there is a conviction in this case, under the law, Hanson is presumed innocent.  Hanson’s arraignment will occur June 18, 2019, at 11:00 a.m. in Bismarck and his change of plea will occur on July 30, 2019, at 9:15 a.m., also in Bismarck.

The investigating agencies include: Federal Bureau of Investigation; North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigations; North Dakota State and Local Intelligence Center; McLean County Sheriff’s Office and States Attorney’s Office; and Mountrail County Sheriff’s Office and States Attorney’s Office.

Assistant United States Attorney Jonathan J. O’Konek is prosecuting the case.

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Updated June 17, 2019