Farm Horizons, April 2012

County attorney now reviewing Winsted Farmers Elevator case

By Linda Scherer

It has been almost a year since the Minnesota Department of Agriculture revoked the Winsted Farmers Elevator’s grain buyer’s license and still, the case goes on.

The investigation into the elevator’s estimated $160,000 worth of missing grain, which began May 2011, was recently turned over to McLeod County Attorney Mike Junge to review for further investigation or possible charges, according to Winsted Police Chief Mike Henrich.

“I would say that most of the legwork is already done, but it’s a lot to sort through, even for his office,” Henrich said, “because it involves so many different banks and so many different areas where the money trails went.”

When Junge was contacted March 20, he said he was unable to comment on the Winsted Farmers Elevator case at this time, and would not make any further comments unless there were charges filed.

Junge also would not give an estimated timeline on when the case might possibly end, because if it were to go to trial, the investigation could be ongoing.

There were a total of 18 farmers, living in Wright, Carver and McLeod counties, who were victims of the theft by swindle that occurred when their grain was either sold without permission or they did not receive payment for the grain they did sell, according to court documents.

In December, the Minnesota Department of Commerce stepped in, taking all of the financial records confiscated during three search warrants performed on Winsted Farmers Elevator major shareholder, Sunil Sapatnekar’s businesses and household, and 10 more warrants on area banks.

“They (the Minnesota Department of Commerce) went through all of the bank records and they formalized a chart to show where this money went when it left the elevator,” Henrich said. “You have to have forensic accountants to be able to do that. They (department of commerce) saved the city more than $10,000.”

On July 27, Sapatnekar was arrested on felony theft related to the Winsted Farmers Elevator, but released the next day.

According to Henrich, Sapatnekar was released because of the amount of information that needed to be processed before a formal complaint could be issued.

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