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REGIONAL BRIEFS: 'Ax Men' company facing foreclosure

Credit: Forum News Service

Local food resource website launched

ST. PAUL - A new website has been launched to assist rural community food system development.

The website,, brings together the following organizations:

-- Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships/University of Minnesota Extension.

-- North Dakota State University Extension Service.

-- Buy Fresh Buy Local South Dakota.

-- FARRMS, a nonprofit based in Medina.

The website will be useful to those working in local foods seeking production assistance, expanded marketing opportunities, developing stronger businesses, creating new sourcing options, educating citizens and crafting more beneficial public policies.


North Dakota

McKenzie roads remain open despite rain

WATFORD CITY, N.D. - McKenzie County didn't end up closing any roads over the weekend even though it rained in some parts of the county.

Jerry Samuelson, emergency manager, said some portions of the large county received little to no rain while it poured in some parts of the county.

"It was sporadic all over the county," Samuelson said.

To prevent further damage to the roads, county commissioners had planned to close gravel roads to vehicles heavier than 20,000 pounds if it rained. But by the time county officials assessed all of the weather reports, vehicles were already out driving, Samuelson said.

County officials will revisit the issue and could close roads to heavy trucks in the future if the area receives an abnormal amount of rain, Samuelson said.

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Medhus pleads guilty to 'Ponzi' scheme charges

FARGO - A former Fargo investment broker pleaded guilty Monday in Cass County District Court to 16 felony charges in what a state investigator described as a Ponzi scheme that bilked 19 people out of at least $935,000.

Beyond stating "guilty" as he pleaded to the charges, Robert Medhus, 65, made no statement in the hearing before Judge Frank Racek.

One victim, Marilynn Hannesson, said in court the nest egg she and her husband counted on is gone.

"That was our retirement and a legacy for our children if there should be any left," Hannesson said, adding: "It's really shattered my faith in mankind."

Medhus will be sentenced after a presentence investigation has been completed.

There is no plea agreement, but prosecutors said they will ask for a sentence of eight years in prison.

Court documents state Medhus took investors' money for his own use rather than investing it in securities, then made fake or exaggerated account statements for them on letterhead printed with his company's name, Associated Financial.


Grafton cleaning up again after rains

GRAFTON, N.D. -- The annual spring cleanup in Grafton began Monday -- for the second time in three weeks.

The original cleanup week started and ended May 20, cut short by periods of heavy rains that have dumped 10 to 15 inches on Walsh County over the past three weeks and have resulted in the city's second flood emergency this spring. Grafton City Council made the emergency declaration Monday.

While an emergency levee system kept the Park River from spilling out of its banks last month, residents in some areas of town have been dealing with water in basements and sewer backups, according to Grafton City Administrator Nick Ziegelmann.

As a result, piles of debris, including basement carpeting and other materials, now line the streets of this town of 4,200 about 40 miles northwest of Grand Forks.

"Typically, we try to stay away from construction debris," Ziegelmann said of the annual project. "This year we're allowing anything. We're doing whatever we can do to help with the cleanup."


Benefit fund battle goes to court

DICKINSON, N.D. -- Rights to money raised for a southwest North Dakota burn victim are under dispute, according to an affidavit filed at the Stark County Courthouse last month.

After receiving serious burns in a propane-related mishap at his home north of South Heart in January, Brian Chorne spent several weeks at a burn unit in Greeley, Colo.

A benefit fund was set up through Gate City Bank in Dickinson. Now, there's a battle raging over who should have control of the remaining Chorne fund assets.

Melody Chorne, Brian's wife, filed an affidavit in small claims court on May 31 asking for $2,764.65 from Mandy Faulhaber, who the Chornes say had access to the money and transferred more than $2,000 into her own account without the Chornes' consent.

"I think Melody and Brian need to take a step back," Faulhaber said. "They can go ahead with this court case, but it's going to make them look very bad. Melody pretended to be me, called the bank and got debit cards sent to her in Colorado and spent money on things she shouldn't have."

Both women claim the other took improper liberties while spending fund money on restaurants, clothes and shoes.



Woman dies when vehicle plunges into lake

JACKSON, Minn. -- A Lakefield woman apparently died after her vehicle plunged into the waters of a southern Minnesota lake.

According to information released Monday, the Jackson County Sheriff's Office responded to a report of a vehicle partially submerged in water at 6:55 p.m. Friday on the northeast side of Clear Lake. When deputies arrived on the scene, they located a 2005 Mazda partially submerged next to a dock. A deceased person, later identified as Cassidy Voss, 23, of Lakefield, was inside the vehicle.

It was determined that Voss was westbound on Jackson County 10 and failed to negotiate a curve in the roadway. The vehicle entered the south ditch and struck an approach leading to the lakeshore. The vehicle then vaulted into some shoreline trees and came to rest next to the dock.

It has not been determined when the accident actually happened.

Boat accident victims identified as mother, daughter

MADISON, Minn. -- The two people who died Saturday when a boat capsized on Lac qui Parle Lake are a Montevideo mother and child.

According to the Lac qui Parle County Sheriff's Office, those dead are Fernanda Mendoza, 5, and her mother, Claudia Ramirez, 34. A man, Fernando Mendoza, 35, was able to get away from the overturned boat, get to shore and call for help.

The incident was reported about 3 p.m. Saturday. The mother and child were pulled from the water and were pronounced dead at area hospitals.

The preliminary investigation shows that high winds and rough water led to the boat becoming filled with water and then turning over.

The Sheriff's Office also cites cold water temperatures, improper life-jacket use and non-use of life jackets as contributing causes to the deaths.


Teen sentenced in fatal crash

MOORHEAD, Minn. - A 17-year-old Moorhead boy was sentenced Monday to serve three and half months in a juvenile work camp after pleading guilty to a felony charge linked to a rollover crash that killed a Moorhead High student last year.

Kullen Carney was charged with criminal vehicular homicide in Clay County District Court after the Aug. 9 crash, which killed 17-year-old Austin Wagar, and injured 17-year-old Brendan Daly.

Carney pleaded guilty in May as part of a plea deal that allows him to avoid serving any of a stayed adult sentence of four years in prison, as long as he fulfills the terms of his juvenile sentence.

Judge Steven Cahill sentenced Carney to supervised probation, which will expire when he turns 21.

Carney was also ordered to participate in a victim impact panel and the Alive at 25 safe driving program, perform 100 hours of community service and surrender his driver's license.


School prevails in lawsuit over health and safety work

GRANITE FALLS, Minn. -- The Court of Appeals provided the Yellow Medicine East School District a complete victory in a lawsuit filed by two taxpayers over $10 million worth of health and safety improvements the district made.

District taxpayers Scott Wintz and Patrick McCoy had challenged whether the district could issue bonds for the improvements without holding a voter referendum.

A district court ruling issued one year ago had given the school district a partial victory, finding that $7,261,856 worth of improvements to the school buildings in Granite Falls met requirements under a state statute that allows health and safety improvements to be financed by school districts without a referendum.

The judge ruled that $2,807,121 worth of work -- for hot water piping and a sprinkler system -- did not meet the exception provided by the statute.

The Court of Appeals reversed this determination.


Man accused of trying to collect 'street tax'

BEMIDJI, Minn. -- A Cass Lake man was arrested for robbery over the weekend after allegedly telling people they needed to pay a "street tax."

Aaron John Jones, 35, was arrested after he allegedly blocked the path of two victims who were walking near the Mississippi River bridge in Bemidji at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, according to a press release issued by the Bemidji Police Department.

Jones allegedly told the victims that they needed to pay the "street tax." When they refused, he allegedly struck one in the face and grabbed the other when they tried to flee the area for help.

Jones wasn't able to take anything from the victims, according to Bemidji police Chief Mike Mastin.

Bemidji police officers located and arrested Jones soon after the incident. He is being held in Beltrami County Jail on two counts of simple robbery, a felony.



'Ax Men' company facing foreclosure

SUPERIOR, Wis. -- An urban logging company featured on the History Channel's "Ax Men" series has three months to find a buyer before its forest, the Old Globe grain elevator, goes to a sheriff's sale.

A foreclosure judgment was entered Wednesday in Douglas County Circuit Court against North Superior Partners LLC, Wisconsin Woodchuck LLC, David Hozza, Judith Peres and Michael Zurakov for nearly $843,000.

Hozza said the group continues to seek a buyer who will harvest the old elevator's timber, not tear it down and toss it in a landfill.

When the Woodchucks debuted on national television this winter, they also launched a crowd-funding campaign to keep the business afloat. The project raised $8,697, far short of the needed $56,000. It turned out that "Ax Men" wasn't a good fit for the Superior business.

"We were the wrong crew for that particular audience," Hozza said. But they did land more coverage, this time from PBS' "Hometime" show. The program featured Old Globe timbers being installed in a home.