When local businessman James Hunter was elected mayor of Crosby, Minn., last fall, he made it clear that he had a low opinion of the police department in the city of 2,400 where the Cuyuna Range meets the Brainerd lakes.
Hunter's swearing-in was delayed for two days after he told City Council members that he didn't trust the Crosby police to perform a required background check. He'd had "issues" with the department in the past, Hunter said. In the end, the Crosby police did perform the check, and Hunter was sworn in.
On Monday, Hunter's opinion of the police probably hit rock bottom after they charged him with four felonies in Crow Wing District Court.
Hunter, 68, and his lover, 46-year-old Candice McCartan, both were charged with theft by swindle in an alleged scheme to con McCartan's husband out of nearly $90,000. Hunter also faces charges of assault with a deadly weapon, fraud and receiving stolen property.
Hunter owns several businesses in Crosby, including the "Buy, Sell, Trade" convenience store on Main Street and a used-car lot. He was elected mayor in November, receiving 37 percent of the vote in a three-way race.
According to the criminal complaint, the police investigation began last July, meaning that Hunter was under investigation during his mayoral campaign.
The complaint says that Hunter and McCartan persuaded her husband, Tom, to buy Hunter's convenience store for $90,000. Tom McCartan signed legal documents prepared by Hunter to close the deal, giving Hunter a $90,000 lien on his home.
Candice McCartan left her husband the next week and moved in with Hunter, the complaint says. While consulting an attorney for a divorce, Tom McCartan discovered that he hadn't actually bought Hunter's store. The documents he signed merely gave him ownership of the store's inventory, the cash register and an ATM, worth about $5,000.
Hunter did not return calls Monday seeking comment. Crosby City Council Member Paul Heglund said he wasn't sure what action the council would take on Hunter's status.
"We'll have to wait and see what happens," Heglund said. "I think everybody was pretty much surprised, when you see the mayor arrested in a small town like this."
Crosby Police Lt. Kevin Randolph said the department planned to beef up its presence at Monday evening's regularly scheduled City Council meeting, in case any tensions boiled over.
Randolph said that investigating a public official, especially in a small town, is a difficult challenge. "It required a great deal more secrecy on our part," he said. "But it's our job to protect the people of Crosby from illegal behavior, no matter who's committing it."
Hunter is accused of playing pulltab games and claiming prizes in his own business, both of which are illegal. The complaint also alleges that Hunter regularly paid others to claim his pulltab winnings.
In the fall, Hunter pulled a gun on McCartan's son after she and the youth argued, the complaint says. Hunter regularly charged used-car buyers a $400 fee to cover financing and documents. Minnesota law limits document fees to $75, and Hunter lacks the state finance license that would allow him to charge interest on loans, the complaint says.
When police searched Hunter's home, business and vehicles, they found more than $40,000 in cash and 54 guns, including at least one that had been reported stolen.
"This is an ongoing investigation," Randolph said. The Crosby police are sharing information with the state Department of Revenue and the Department of Public Safety, he said.