CROSBY, Minn. (KMSP) - The mayor of the small Brainerd Lakes area town of Crosby, Minnesota was charged Monday with theft by swindle, assault with a deadly weapon, receiving stolen property and gambling fraud following a months-long investigation by his own police department.
James Jesse Hunter, 68, was elected mayor of Crosby in November, but the complaint details a criminal investigation that began last July. According to the charges, Hunter and his girlfriend, 46-year-old Candice McCartan, swindled her husband out of nearly $90,000. McCartan was also charged with one count of theft-by-swindle.
According to jail administrators, this afternoon Hunter was released from Crow Win County Jail on bond and McCartan was also released with conditions.
“When they arrest the mayor in a small town like this, it takes everybody by surprise,” said city council member Paul Heglund.
Hunter owns several businesses in Crosby, including the Buy, Sell, Trade store on Main Street. According to the complaint, Hunter and McCartan convinced her husband to buy the store, saying it would help the couple repair their credit problems. McCartan also happened to be an employee at the store for approximately two years.
Mr. McCartan signed the documents to close the deal, giving Hunter a $90,000 lien on his home. According to the complaint, Candice McCartan told her husband just one week later that she was leaving him and moving in with Hunter.
While reviewing divorce paperwork with an attorney, Mr. McCartan learned the documents he signed didn’t actually give him ownership of the store. The documents only covered the current inventory of the store, the cash register and an ATM – an estimated value of just $5,000 to $7,000, according to his attorney.
As for the other counts against Hunter, the gambling fraud charge stems from the allegation he paid people to claim the winnings from pulltabs he played at his own store. The assault charge involves an alleged incident of Hunter pointing a pistol at Candice McCartan's son during an argument.
According to the complaint, witnesses involved in the investigation have expressed fear that Hunter or his associates will harass or intimidate them when he learns who they are. Hunter is also known to travel frequently outside of Minnesota, including trips to Mexico, therefore investigators are concerned he will attempt to flee the country.