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Part of a pile of yellow peas lays under snow on the ground at the Tunbridge, N.D., one of the sites of the NoDak Grain, headquartered at Devils Lake, N.D. Photo taken Nov. 20, at in rural Rugby, N.D. Mikkel Pates / Agweek

24 entities file $5.2M in claims against North Dakota grain trader Hunter Hanson

BISMARCK, N.D.—The North Dakota Public Service Commission says claimants have until early April to file loss claims against Hunter Hanson, who was ordered late last year to stop his grain trading businesses after complaints of his checks being returned for insufficient funds.

Hanson was doing business from Devils Lake, N.D., with a roving grain buyer license named Midwest Grain Trading and a warehouse license to NoDak Grain.

Earlier, the PSC said the deadlines for having claims arrive to the PSC was April 4, but the actual cut-off is dependent on publication dates of legal notices and can be adjusted by the PSC, said Konrad Crockford, director of compliance. The form for making complaints is available on the PSC website.

The PSC has a list of claims against Hanson, 21, who had residences at West Fargo, N.D., and Leeds, N.D., that had been filed as of March 4. They came from 24 individuals and companies totaling more than $5.2 million, mostly involving durum wheat and yellow peas. Some claimants have separately filed civil actions in district courts in the state.

About $2.7 million is owed to one group of three elevators operated by the ItaliGrani USA, a grain storage and milling firm based in St. Louis, Mo.

ItaliGrani was incorporated in 1979 and began purchasing three grain elevators in North Dakota in 1989. The company supplies semolina and durum flour.

(The St. Louis Post-Dispatch in August 2017 said the company is one of the larger millers of durum wheat in the country, selling primarily to pasta makers. It expanded its mill and storage by 40 percent in a project that was to be completed by late 2018.)

'Introductory broker'

Hunter HansonPerhaps significantly, almost all of the PSC claims show the involvement with a company called East Central Grain Marketing LLC, of Minnetonka, Minn., whose owner, Daniel "Danny" Stommes, was described as an "introductory broker" in the deals. East Central had a roving grain buyer's license in North Dakota.

East Central routinely took a "commission" of 2 cents to 10 cents per bushel on deals, but left the grain ownership to Hanson.

"We have looked at East Central Grain and still looking at how they fit into this," said Konrad Crockford, the PSC director of compliance. "How they can fit into this is something our attorneys are still looking at."

East Central Grain has filed its own claims in the case.

Stommes was brief in an interview with Agweek regarding his company's role in the sales. "We submit our victims' claims to the PSC," he said. "At this point, that's all we have. Thank you for your time." And then he hung up.

In some cases, claimant texts and e-mails said they'd appealed directly with Stommes to deal with delivery or payment from Hanson, but in one case, Stommes told them his company had had no liability.

Selling grain assets

The PSC has not yet "validated" the farmer and elevator claims, but Crockford says that process is underway. In the meantime, the agency is liquidating grain assets from Hanson's facilities at Rohrville, N.D., and Tunbridge, N.D.

In past insolvencies, some claims have been deemed invalid if grain wasn't delivered, but the agency is looking at each one individually. "If a claim is deemed invalid for our proceeding isn't to say they don't have a legitimate breach of contract," he said. They may have other legal recourse, he said.

The claims, from largest to smallest, so far are:

• Renville Elevator, Tolley, N.D.—$1,449,059. (Owned by ItalGrani USA) Claim includes $911,448 in unpaid scale tickets, plus $737,000 "outstanding contracts"—claiming a difference between the $6.70 per bushel contracted amount minus a $4.70 value as of mid-November. East Central's commission, 2 cents to 10 cent per bushel.

• McLean Elevator Co., Benedict, N.D.—$763,041. (Owned by ItalGrani USA) This includes $638,410 in unpaid hard red spring wheat delivered August to November 2018. The total includes $124,631 in market differences for grain contracted but not delivered. East Central's commission, 2 cents to 10 cents per bushel.

• Delmar Commodities Ltd., Winkler, Manitoba—$598,079. East Central's commission, 8 cents to 10 cents per bushel.

• Powers Lake Elevator Co., Powers Lake, N.D.—$527,933. (owned by ItalGrani USA)—Claim includes $430,418 of unpaid scale tickets, plus a $97,514 market difference on undelivered commodities. East Central's commision, 2 cents to 10 cents per bushel.

• United Quality Cooperative, New Town, N.D.—$347,939. East Central's commission, 5 cents per bushel. Kim Meyer, controller, writes to the PSC on Nov. 29, 2018: "Should I file a formal complaint against East Central Grain, as they wrote the trade agreements we have with Green Leaf Commodities and Midwest Grain Trading. We most likely would have never even heard of either of these companies if East Central Grain hadn't brokered them to us?"

• Lynden Skaare, Alamo, N.D.—$199,818. East Central's commission, 5-10 cents per bushel. In July, Skaare writes in the claim that he "called the PSC to check if both elevators were License and Bonded. They said YES."

• Shafer Commodities, Morden, Manitoba --$167,418. Yellow peas delivered Sept. 13, 2018, to Oct. 30, 2018. East Central's commission, 10 cents per bushel. On Oct. 25, Hanson explains he didn't have the right bank account number. On Oct. 30, Shafer requests a check sent "by COURIER (not mail) courier" and they would pay the charges. On Nov. 8, Jan Leishman of Shafer appeals to East Central's Stommes: "Dan—could you please ensure that Hunter sends these funds promptly.")

• Dakota AgSynergy LLC, Linton, N.D.—$164,735. East Central's commission, 3 cents and 5 cents per bushel.

• Derek Morey, Minot, N.D.—$145,889. Grain hauled in early September at Hensler and Osnabrock, and received a check on Nov. 2, 2018. Checks returned for "stop payment."

• Woodworth (N.D.) Farmers Grain Co.—$133,579, for spring wheat shipped in August and September, with possible protein adjustment.

• Roger Harstad, Palermo, N.D., farmer, $111,888. East Central's commission unspecified.

• Todd Timm, Kensal, N.D.—$70,734. Plus $1,500 commission already paid to East Central.

• E Y Inc., Jud, N.D.— $58,300. 10,000 bushels of milling hard red spring wheat, hauled to Osnabrock Farmers Co-op. by A&T trucking, from Sept. 22, 2018, to Nov. 5. 2018. East Central's commission unspecified.

• K&S Operating Partnership, Stanley, N.D.—$56,776. In wheat, from Stanley, N.D., to Hensler ADM-Benson Quinn, on Sept. 18, 2018, and on Sept. 16 and Sept. 19 to Nekoma, N.D. Kevin Harstad, farmer. East Central's commission, 5 cents per bushel.

• Kent Florhaug, Kensal, N.D.—$53,869, for loads of spring wheat. East Central's commission, 4 cents per bushel. Grain went to the Osnabrock Farmers Co-op Elevator, Inc., Nekoma, N.D.

• Dale and Brandyn Garksop, Flaxton, N.D.—$53,461. Aug. 1 to Sept. 30, yellow peas to Dakota Dry Bean, Crary, N.D. East Central's commission, 10 cents per bushel.

• Southland Pulse, Estevan, Saskatchewan—$41,363. For 15,000 bushels yellow peas, Sept. 5, 2018. East Central's commission, 15 cents per bushel.

Southland had been approached by Stommes in April 2018 to sell 15,000 bushels of peas to Midwest Grain Trading. Southland Pulse wanted an extra 20 cents to deliver to Rohrville, farther than Tunbridge. "How confident are you I will get paid?" asks Shawn Madsen, in an email Sept. 12. "Payments have been as agreed," Stommes replies.

• Garrett Novak, St. Hilaire, Minn.— $34,977. For peas. East Central's commission, 5 cents per bushel. Sold to Crookston Bean Inc., 1600 S. Main St., Crookston, Minn., to Garrett Novak on Oct. 3 and 4.

• Berthold (N.D.) Farmers Elevator—$28,540 plus a contract dispute. East Central's commission, 10 cents per bushel, through Zach Herschman.

• Bridge Agri Partners, Inc., Lethbridge, Alberta—$33,049. "Broker Contract#:TBA: EASTC (referring to East Central Grain Marketing)

• Devin Tuomala, Perth, N.D.—$21,559. Hard red spring wheat went to Nekoma, N.D., from Oct. 22 to Oct. 23. (On Jan. 14, says he's withdrawing his claim because Hanson had paid him in early December with a check with a 10-day hold "due to there not being any information in the top left corner of the check. Late December the check cleared and I had received the money I was due for my wheat in the full amount."

• Andrew Skaare, Alamo, N.D.— $108,849. East Central's commission unspecified.

• Austin Steinmetz, Carson, N.D.—$32,000, estimated. East Central's commission unspecified.

• Ryan Greenfield, Powers Lake, N.D.—$20,000 estimated. East Central's commission, 5 cents per bushel.

• Kris Mortenson, Souris, N.D.—$18,450. Durum sales.

70 more names

Another 70 names and law offices are being notified by the court. The list includes individuals who contacted the PSC from the beginning and may have a claim, Crockford explained.

Those include: Chris Gratton, CHS Garrison, Garrison, N.D.; Brian Larson, Co-op Elevator of McClusky, N.D.; Darren Edwards, Ray Farmers Union Elevator, Ray, N.D.; Wade Fischer, Grenora, N.D.; Murray Pfau, Upham, N.D.; Bill Spitzer, Kensal, N.D.;

separately, David, Cody and Ronald St. Croix, Kenmare, N.D.;

Chris Rystedt, Powers Lake, N.D.; Leon Schmaltz, Harvey, N.D.; Donald Knox, separately, Donald and Jeff Knox, Ray, N.D.; David Anfinson, Williston, N.D.; Bobby Kubas, Belfield, N.D.; Rich Rice, Tioga, N.D.; Paul Weyrauch, Ray, N.D.; Glen Hauf, Makoti, N.D.; Dillon Dione, Rolette, N.D.; Rodney Sauer, Carpio; Jim Walsh, Palermo, N.D.;

Bryan Huber, Jud, N.D.; Dan Mostad, Berthold Farmers Elevator, Berthold, N.D.; Josh Watterud, Columbus, N.D.; Mark Martinson, Rolette, N.D.; Derek Morey, Minto, N.D.; Dale Genskop, Flaxton, N.D.; Travis Zablotney, Miinot, N.D.; Scott Anderson, Crary, N.D.; Kris Mortenson, Souris, N.D.; Mark Jennings, Wilton Farmers Elevator, Wilton, N.D.;

Seth Lura, Carrington, N.D.; Lloyd Patrick Walsh, Minot, N.D.; Devin Toubala, Perth, N.D.; Dan Stommes, East Central Grain Marketing, Minnetonka, Minn.; Jeremy Sorenson, Allied Grain, Carrington, N.D.; Steve Mortenson, Williston, N.D.; Ryan Spitzer, Kensal, N.D.; Randy Lura, Carrington, N.D.; Charles Miller, Williston, N.D.; Ryan Davidson, Tioga, N.D.;

Jeff Graupe, Williston, N.D.; Darren Gohrick, McGregor, N.D.; Mike Mongeon, Rolette, N.D.; Steve Lesmeister, Harvey, N.D.; Ryan Westerness, Powers Lake, N.D.; Jarrett Foss, Rolette, N.D.; Stanley Larson, Williston, N.D.; Justin Iverson, Columbus, N.D.;

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