CROSBY, Minn. (WCCO) — Only a few months into his first term, a small town Minnesota mayor was charged with several crimes Monday.
Court documents state he stole tens of thousands of dollars and threatened someone with a gun.
Mayor James Hunter, 68, of Crosby faces five charges including theft by swindle, second degree assault, gambling fraud and more.
Police said he and Candice McCartan, 46, who is his girlfriend and employee at his store, conspired to steal $90,000 from her then husband.
Monday night’s council meeting in Crosby was packed but the seat belonging to Mayor Hunter was noticeably empty. Last Friday he was arrested. Police then served search warrants on his home, his businesses, his vehicle and his bank accounts.
“I certainly hope it would show that we are above the politics,” said Lt. Kevin Randolph, the lead investigator on the case which started last summer.
Back then, court documents state Hunter and McCartan tricked her husband into buying Hunter’s “Buy Sell and Trade” shop in Crosby by putting a $90,000 lien on his home.
Days later she filed for divorce. The documents state her husband learned in the divorce papers that he didn’t actually own the business. His attorney explained he only owned the inventory of the store, computers, cash register and the ATM which was valued at a total of $5,000.
Court documents also state Hunter was gambling with pull tabs at his shop, then having someone else claim his winnings to the tune of $20,000 over the past year.
And while police continued the investigation, Hunter was running for mayor and got elected.
“We couldn’t involve a lot of extra people in this (investigation), we couldn’t involve a lot of extra officers,” said Lt. Randolph of the secrecy necessary to continue the nine-month long investigation.
Hunter is also accused of pointing a gun at McCartan’s son. But the potential financial crimes are causing residents to speak up.
“I really don’t know if I want him running (the city’s) checkbook,” John Radinovich said during the public comment portion of the council meeting. The city attorney said Hunter didn’t have direct oversight on city dollars, but that the city will be conducting its own investigation.
Hunter also owns a used car lot. The documents state he charged customers a $400 fee to cover financing and documents when they purchased a car. The documents state Minnesota law only allows a document fee of $75 and that Hunter doesn’t have a finance license and can’t charge interest on a loan.
Lt. Randolph said the city council cannot remove Hunter from his elected seat, but they are allowed to request that he resign.
A council member said no action would be taken regarding Hunter at Monday’s meeting.
“One of the things we heard throughout this investigation were people were scared to come forward,” said Lt. Randolph. “People didn’t think anything would be done and we want to send a clear message that that is not the case. If someone commits a crime it doesn’t matter if they’re a politician, doesn’t matter if they’re a business person, doesn’t matter if they’re a police officer, we will investigate and we will take it forward until we’re satisfied that the right thing has been done.”
McCartan faces one charge of theft by swindle.