Co-op manager sentencing moved to June 21

FERGUS FALLS, Minn. -- Sentencing for Jerome "Jerry" Hennessey, the big game hunting co-op manager, has been delayed a week to Friday, June 21, at 11 a.m. at the federal courthouse in Fergus Falls. Sentencing for the former general manager of the...

The photos in court documents include Jerry Hennessey’s big game hunting display at his Dalton, Minn., home, including this tiger and African animals. Photo taken in early December 2018 by Ashley Farmers Elevator Co-op, for use in court filings.


FERGUS FALLS, Minn. - Sentencing for Jerome "Jerry" Hennessey, the big game hunting co-op manager, has been delayed a week to Friday, June 21, at 11 a.m. at the federal courthouse in Fergus Falls.

Sentencing for the former general manager of the defunct Ashby (Minn.) Farmers Cooperative Elevator Co. replaces an earlier-announced June 13 date.

Hennessey on Feb. 14 pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the theft of $5.4 million from the co-op over a period of 15 years; much of it apparently spent on big game hunting trips around the world. Among other things, the co-op paid for more than a half-million dollars in taxidermy.

Before District Judge John Tunheim pronounces his sentence, victims will have a chance to make statements in writing or in person or both.


Jerry Hennessey (Photo courtesy of the Battle Lake Review)

Hennessey could serve up to eight years in federal prison, according to sentencing guidelines. He also owes $6.5 million to victims and the Internal Revenue Service.

Erica H. MacDonald, the U.S. attorney in Minnesota, in an April 11 letter to creditors, said farmers and other victims in the case will be allowed to speak at the hearing, but said they must call her office "well in advance."

MacDonald said a probation officer is contacting some victims to learn of the impact of the crime "financially, physically and/or emotionally."

Registrants can apply for email notification of court changes; go to , or call 866-365-4968, for information.

Hennessey disappeared Sept. 10 when it became apparent that co-op funds had disappeared and turned himself in Dec. 4 in the wake of federal charges. When Hennessey pleaded guilty in February, the judge relaxed his release conditions so he could go anywhere in Minnesota, in part so he could aid with the recovery of items that may have been moved from his Dalton, Minn., home, which contained vast taxidermy collections from hunts he'd paid for with co-op money.

Here are other updates in the case occurring in several court venues:



• Bond: Doug Spanier, lawyer for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, says state law prevents the department from revealing the number of claims or the amounts made and verified until the case is closed. Claimants had until late March to file claims. The state has determined which they consider valid, and claimants have until mid-May to appeal them.

If there are no appeals, the department can hand out whatever the bond will pay up to its $125,000 amount. Debts are not specified so the bond would provide pennies on the millions in debts.

• Hunting guide suits: A hearing has been set regarding the hunting guide companies around the country and world that the co-op is suing because they received money from the co-op to which they didn't provide services. Co-op attorney Erik Ahlgren argues that money is recoverable. The first of the hearings is at 1 p.m. June 21 in front of Tunheim in Fergus Falls.

• Co-op asset sale. On May 20 in Grant County District Court in Elbow Lake, Ahlgren will request that assets owned by Ashby Farmers Cooperative Elevator be sold to Wheaton-Dumont Cooperative Elevator, based in Wheaton, Minn., which is leasing the facility.

The defunct Ashby co-op earlier agreed to sell the real estate for $650,000, after selling the "rolling stock"-vehicles and wheeled equipment-for $500,000. The sale of property would help pay off $7.8 million owed to CoBank.

One unknown is whether the Wheaton elevator will be liable for a pension fund that owes money to former employees. The pension plan says any purchaser will be subject to a "withdrawal liability of $242,029," because the pension fund has become under-funded.

• Board liability. Ahlgren says former members of the co-op's board of directors during the time the fraud occurred, dating back as many as 15 years, are being represented by Robert "Rob" G. Manly, an attorney with the Vogel Law Firm in Fargo, N.D. Manly did not immediately return a call for comment.

"We haven't brought a claim but we're not done investigating and deciding whether we'll bring a claim, but that's the great likelihood," Ahlgren said.


• Hennessey divorce. On March 28, in Otter Tail County District Court, Rebecca "Becky" Hennessey, 58, and Jerry Hennessey, 56, were officially divorced. The Hennesseys had been married 37 years.

Becky is awarded all household goods and furnishings, "except all taxidermy, guns, hunting clothes and supplies which are awarded to" Jerry.

According to the agreement, joint financial accounts will be equally divided. Jerry receives all rights in motor vehicles, boats, motors, fish houses, skid-steer equipment, agricultural equipment, conservation and recreational vehicles.

Becky is awarded the Otter County real estate, even though it is already being sold pursuant to a forfeiture order from the U.S. attorney. Their home, including its large display facilities for taxidermy, is up for sale for $795,000.

Ahlgren said Becky may dispute the forfeiture. They'll split retirement accounts held at CHS, Ashby Farmers Co-op Elevator, and a Roth IRA. They'll divide life insurance policies.


Jerry Hennessey (Photo courtesy of the Battle Lake Review)
Jerry Hennessey (Photo courtesy of the Battle Lake Review)

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