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How an alleged grain elevator swindle has rocked the town of Ashby

State officials are urging farmers to file claims to cover their losses.

The small, west-central Minnesotan town of Ashby has been rocked by controversy that has led to the closure of its local grain elevator.

The Ashby Farmers Cooperative Elevator Co. officially closed its elevator business on Sept. 14, after board members realized there was a big chunk of inventory missing from its financial statements.

As AgWeek reports, a subsequent investigation has led to allegations that its general manager, Jerry Hennessey, spent more than $2 million in company funds on hunting safaris, taxidermy and credit card bills.

The elevator in the Grant County city generates revenue of almost $2 million a year and provides five local jobs, with AgWeek noting the board is now seeking new owners who can re-open the elevator so that normal service can resume for local farmers.

On Tuesday, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture issued an advisory to farmers who either have grain stored at the elevator or have not received payment from the company.

They are being urged to submit a bond claim with the MDA so they can mitigate any losses they incur as a result of the company's financial troubles.

The Forum News Service reports that Hennessey is now under investigation by police, after it emerged he'd signed checks that totaled $375,000 for safari hunting trips to locations including New Zealand, Alaska and Australia.

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He also allegedly spent $500,000 on taxidermy services and more than $1 million on a Cabela's Club Visa credit card.

Ashby Mayor Tom Grover told AgWeek the closure of the elevator and the cause of it "hurts" the city, and expressed hope someone will take over the business.

Meanwhile Hennessey, who was suspended without pay at a board meeting on Sept. 10, has not been seen in weeks.

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