Big-game hunting embezzler from Minnesota imprisoned in North Carolina

Mikkel Pates
Forum News Service

BUTNER, N.C. — Jerry Hennessey, who used money from the elevator he managed in Minnesota to pay for big-game hunting trips, on July 29 reported to the low-security area of Butner Federal Correctional Institution in North Carolina.

Hennessey, the former general manager of the Ashby Farmers Elevator Cooperative was sentenced June 21 in Fergus Falls, Minn. He will serve eight years in prison for federal wire fraud and income tax charges. He pleaded guilty to stealing more than $5 million from the co-op over at least 15 years and writing co-op checks for big-game hunting trips across the globe. He had spent more than $500,000 on taxidermy alone and built facilities at his rural home to display it. Many of the payments were labeled for corn and soybeans to mask the fraud.

Hennessey’s fraud caused the dissolution of the co-op and sale of its assets, as well as the end of his marriage. Erik Ahlgren, a Fergus Falls attorney who serves as a state sponsored trustee for the former cooperative, confirmed that Hennessey’s Dalton residence with its two large outbuildings for taxidermy remains for sale.

Hennessey, 56, requested to be placed at the federal prison in Duluth and U.S. District Court Judge John R. Tunheim said he would request it but could not guarantee it. Hennessey had been living with a daughter in the Minneapolis area. Butner is 1,200 miles from Minneapolis, nearly a 19-hour drive.

Butner’s low security area holds about 1,100 men. The institution lists Hennessey’s release date as May 21, 2026. There is no parole in the federal system, one of the reforms in the federal Sentencing Reform Act of 1984.

Other inmates at the medium-security area of Butner include Bernie Madoff, who was convicted in 2009 for perpetrating the largest Ponzi scheme in history, robbing thousands of investors of about $65 billion, and Gilberto Rodgriguez Orejuela, a Columbian drug lord who is serving a 30-year sentence for co-founding the former Cali Cartel.

The Bureau of Prisons “attempts” to place inmates within a 500-mile radius of their “release residence,” according to its online information.

A bureau spokesperson declined to speak to the “circumstances relating to an individual inmate’s designation” to a particular institution. A “number of factors are considered,” including “security, population, programming, and medical needs.”

Hennessey in court noted he is a diabetic. He had taken several weeks of diabetic supplies when he asked a former elevator worker to drive him from Ashby to Des Moines in September 2018, prior to being charged with federal fraud charges. Hennessey returned to Minnesota and turned himself in after federal charges were filed in December.