Swindled ag co-op looking for payback

In an ongoing attempt to clean up the mess from a massive financial swindle, an Ashby agricultural co-op is seeking more than $125,000 from local vendors whom it claims should have known they were being paid fraudulently.

Ashby Farmers Cooperative Elevator Co. is suing Skjeret Concrete of Fergus Falls and Tri-County Foam Insulation of Alexandria. In court documents, the co-op said both companies did work on the personal home of the co-op's manager, Jerry Hennessey, and were paid with checks drawn on the co-op's business account.

The vendors should have known that Hennessey couldn't pay for work on his personal home with a co-op check, the lawsuits say. The co-op is seeking more than $89,000 from Skjeret and more than $36,000 from Tri-County Foam.

Hennessey was sentenced in 2019 to eight years in federal prison for defrauding the farmer-owned co-op of more than $5 million while he was its longtime manager. He spent lavishly on exotic big-game safaris and taxidermy, as well as on his personal home, which featured a massive trophy room for his kills.

Since Hennessey's conviction, the co-op has filed numerous lawsuits against vendors who were fraudulently paid with co-op money.

John Reinan

Lake County

Kawishiwi Lodge will be listed as historic

The Kawishiwi Lodge on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness near Ely was recently listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The family-owned resort, first built in the 1920s, consisted of eight original log cabins constructed with hand tools, with no electricity. Workers had to hike about 2 miles to the site because there was no road at the time, said Frank Udovich, a co-owner and operator.

The resort now features 20 cabins, and parts of it have been updated, but much of it looks the same, Udovich said.

Perched near Lake One, the resort now offers canoe rentals and other outfitting gear for paddling trips into the wilderness.

"We don't have any motor boats, so it's nearly the same experience when you go out on that dock. … You've got the stars, the trees, the slight breeze, the campfire. Very little has changed in 100 years," he said. "You don't have to look at a black and white photo to experience the past, you can just come here."

Udovich applied for the historic status several years ago, he said, and was happy to see it granted. "It's an amazing honor."

Pam Louwagie