CROSBY, Minn.-The mayor of a 2,400-person community in the middle of Minnesota is now wrapped up in a tale involving money, guns and romance.
Criminal charges filed in Crow Wing County Court Monday, March 13, against James Jesse "Jim" Hunter, 68, weave allegations of a love affair intertwined with an illegal financial scheme, that culminated in confrontation and gunplay. Together with alleged lover and accomplice Candice Ann McCartan, 46, the Crosby mayor reportedly ran a confidence trick against her husband, a criminal complaint stated.
The narrative in the criminal complaint begins in July 2016, when a man identified in the document only as T.R.M. walked into the Crosby Police Department and said he wanted to report Hunter for a number of alleged crimes, including swindling of $90,000.
T.R.M. told police that in late June, his wife Candice McCartan, and Hunter convinced him to purchase Buy Sell Trade, one of Hunter's businesses in Crosby. McCartan had been working for Hunter at Buy Sell Trade for about two years, the charges said.
Hunter's pitch was that owning the store would be steady income for T.R.M. and McCartan, and that it would help fix their credit problems, according to the criminal complaint. Hunter allegedly got T.R.M to believe the store made between $8,000 and $12,000 a month in revenue. Since his wife was there when Hunter told him this and didn't dispute it, T.R.M. figured it to be true, the charges said.
Hunter also reportedly told T.R.M. the sale price was $45,000. But several days later, after T.R.M. had already signed the sale documents, he found out he was actually required to pay Hunter $90,000 via a lien placed on his home.
"When T.R.M. asked Hunter why the amount had doubled, Hunter explained to him that the price included $45,000 for the business, and $45,000 for the building," the charges said. "T.R.M. expressed concern to Hunter about the amount of the lien, but Hunter told him not to worry about it, as he had no intentions of taking T.R.M.'s home and with $8,000-$12,000 a month of the store's income (T.R.M.) would be able to pay off the lien easily."
But a week later, in July, McCartan told T.R.M. she was leaving him and moving in with Hunter, the charges stated. T.R.M. then reportedly got into an argument with her while inside Buy Sell Trade. Hunter is alleged to have told T.R.M. he needed to leave the property.
"T.R.M. told Hunter that he could not kick him out of his own store," the charges said.
But to T.R.M.'s reported surprise, Hunter said he still owned the building. Hunter applied for a restraining order a few days later, and when he got it, it allowed him to block T.R.M. from coming back to Buy Sell Trade.
As T.R.M. was divorcing McCartan, his divorce attorney examined the sale documents, and it turned out what T.R.M had actually bought was the inventory of the store, some computers, the cash register and the ATM machine. The value of the purchase was between $5,000 and $7,000, his attorney told him-a far cry from the $90,000 he was supposed to pay.
Several other witnesses the police talked to gave details that thickened the plot even more.
R.F., who worked at Buy Sell Trade for about six months, told them that during her time there she saw Hunter regularly take cash out of his pocket and put it in the cash register and that he paid her directly from his own personal checking account. She said she heard Hunter and McCartan talking about how the business was losing money. And shortly before the "sale" to T.R.M., she said she heard Hunter say he would need to close the store down soon due to the financial strain it put on his other businesses, the charges stated.
T.R.M.'s son told police that after McCartan moved in with Hunter, he saw them parked in front of Buy Sell Trade in September. The son approached the vehicle and talked to McCartan through the driver's side window next to Hunter. The conversation turned angry, the criminal complaint said, and Hunter allegedly took out a handgun and pointed it at the son with his finger on the trigger.
The police executed search warrants on Hunter's home, Buy Sell Trade, his bank, his phones and his vehicle, the complaint said. Inside the center console of the vehicle they found the gun the son had told them about. In the store, police found a semiautomatic pistol that had been reported stolen.
In Hunter's residence, they found 54 more guns, "including multiple guns in various locations in the house," the complaint stated.
Police contacted the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to check the backgrounds of the guns.
Hunter also repeatedly overcharged people at his used car lot, the complaint stated. Minnesota law only allows $75 to be charged for documents when people buy a car, but Hunter charged $400 for documentation and financing. Hunter does not have a licence to provide car financing, but charged people for it anyway, the complaint said.
"Five bills of sale were provided to Crosby PD prior to the search warrants being executed," the complaint said. "In each bill of sale, Hunter charged the $400 fee."
Witnesses also saw Hunter playing pull tabs in his own business, which is illegal, the charges stated. He would also allegedly use other people's driver's licenses to collect the winnings.
"Witnesses have expressed fear that Hunter or his associates in the community will harass or intimidate them when he learns who they are," the charges said. "They are requesting that he not be allowed to contact them, their families or their residences. Hunter is also known to travel frequently outside the state and country to Mexico. Law enforcement is concerned he will flee the jurisdiction."
Hunter faces five charges: felony second degree assault with a dangerous weapon, felony theft by swindle, felony receiving stolen property, felony lawful gambling fraud, and gross misdemeanor engaging in the business of a vehicle financing company without a license.
McCartan is charged with felony theft by swindle.
Hunter's next court date is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. March 27.
The other side of the story
Contacted Monday, Hunter's attorney, Ed Shaw, painted a very different picture than the criminal complaint. Shaw said he had also represented Candice McCartan in the divorce proceedings.
He said the complaint about the alleged swindling was simply due to the fact T.R.M. thought he had gotten a raw deal. Shaw said he had never seen anything like it before.
"That that has become the basis of a criminal charge, I find that frankly amazing," he said.
As to the felony assault charge, Shaw pointed out Hunter had restraining orders both against T.R.M. and the son who was involved in the alleged gun incident. T.R.M. was cited March 6 for violating the restraining order.
The chief of the Crosby Police Department, Kim Coughlin, supported Hunter's opponent in the 2016 election, Shaw said. Hunter ousted incumbent mayor Joanna Lattery, 390 votes to 338.
Acting with local and state agencies, Crosby police arrested Hunter and Candice Ann McCartan last Friday.
Shaw also questioned why a gunpoint arrest of Hunter was necessary.
"Something about this is not right," Shaw said. "Something I certainly intend to get to the bottom of."