MINNEAPOLIS - The former manager of the now-dissolved Ashby Farmers Cooperative Elevator will be on electronic monitoring pending further actions in a federal criminal case filed against him on Monday, Dec. 3.
Jerome "Jerry" Hennessey, 56, made an initial appearance before Magistrate Judge Katherine Menendez on Dec. 4.
Angella LaTour, director of community outreach for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Minnesota, said Hennessey also is not allowed to leave the state of Minnesota without permission from a probation officer. Further conditions of Hennessey's release were not available Dec. 5, as federal agencies were closed for the funeral of former President George H.W. Bush.
A release from the U.S. Attorney's Office said Hennessey is accused of defrauding the Ashby Farmer's Cooperative Elevator from 2003 through at least September 2018.
Hennessey is accused of using millions of dollars of elevator funds to help pay for big-game hunting trips and other items over several years. Federal authorities on Dec. 3 charged him with mail fraud, alleging he mailed a check for $34,166.67 via U.S. mail on Jan. 27, 2017, from the co-op's account for a partial payment toward the purchase of hunting property in Kanabec County.
According to an affidavit, the fraudulent charges included over $1 million in payments to Hennessey's personal Cabela's Visa card and hundreds of thousands of dollars for various hunting trips, including international big-game hunting safaris and taxidermy services. For example, investigators found at least twelve checks totaling more than $400,000 for items such as "South Africa Mounts" and "Zimbabwe Double Kudu Pedestals" and for a "Zebra Pedestal."
Officials had been trying to contact Hennessey since Sept. 10, 2018, when he failed to show up for a meeting with co-op officials regarding suspicious charges on co-op accounts. Hennessey had a friend drive him to Des Moines, Iowa, where he told two acquaintances later interviewed by law enforcement that he had taken money from his employer and was in a lot of trouble.
The co-op contacted local law enforcement on Sept. 12. The case has been investigated by the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division, the Grant County Sheriff's Office, and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Assistant U.S. Attorney John Kokkinen is prosecuting the case and referred all questions to LaTour.