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State Sen. Sean Nienow files for bankruptcy; owes $900K

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A Republican state senator who has more than $900,000 in debts has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcyMPR News reports.

State Sen. Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge, and his wife, Cynthia, filed for bankruptcy on June 1. They owe debts to the federal government, credit card agencies and a past business partner, according to court records.

Their largest debt is nearly $750,000 they owe to the federal government for a Small Business Administration loan they took out in 2009, according to MPR News. The couple used a $613,000 loan to purchase a business called the National Camp Association, which was aimed at helping parents find camps for their children and providing support services for camps.

The business is no longer operating, and the Nienows stopped making payments on the loan in July 2010. The federal government sued the Nienows for default in late March, and was seeking full repayment of the loan as well as interest and court costs totaling $748,532.

The Nienows and their attorney did not return calls seeking comment. In April, Nienow said he hadn't ruled out filing for personal bankruptcy to settle the unpaid loan, according to the Associated Press. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined comment on the bankruptcy filing, MPR reports.

According to court papers, the Nienows have debts of $930,883 and total assets of $121,836.

The Nienows will have to liquidate all of their nonessential assets and turn the proceeds over to their creditors. They listed their Cambridge home, two cars, four guns, a broken boat and a Nintendo Gamecube system as exempt assets, the AP says.

Nienow’s debts, including the money he owes the federal government, may be forgiven through bankruptcy. But the Nienows guaranteed the SBA loan with a deed of trust on their home, which cannot be discharged through bankruptcy. That means they could lose their home to creditors, according to MPR News.

The court filing indicates the family's total income is Nienow's salary as a state senator. He and his wife have eight children.

Nienow, who describes himself as a fiscal conservative, was first elected to the Minnesota Senate in 2002. He lost his seat in 2006 but was reelected in 2010 and 2012.

The trustee in Nienow’s case has scheduled a July 23 meeting with creditors.

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