Former Kerkhoven, Minnesota, mayor James Rothers avoids prison, will serve probation for bankruptcy fraud

Dec. 13—ST. PAUL — A former mayor of

Kerkhoven

will serve probation for his conviction of fraudulent concealment of bankruptcy assets.

Judge Susan Richard Nelson on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in St. Paul ordered James Rothers, 56, to serve probation for 24 months, according to information from the U.S. District Attorney's Office for Minnesota. Rothers had pleaded guilty to the felony charge on Nov. 7, 2019.

At that time, the parties had agreed to a sentencing range of 18 to 24 months in prison, according to the plea agreement.

Former Willmar attorney Gregory Ronald Anderson, 63, was sentenced one week earlier to 18 months in federal prison and also ordered to serve one year of supervised release and pay a $20,000 fine for an identical felony charge of fraud.

An investigation by the FBI led to charges against Rothers and Anderson for an alleged scheme to hide business assets of Rothers' grain bin building companies from creditors. The charges accused them of creating fake liabilities and a fictitious lawsuit to create a bogus judgment of approximately $608,000 against Rothers.

They also created documents to make it appear Rothers owed an Iowa company $240,000. The bogus loan bolstered the appearance of Rothers' insolvency, according to the U.S. District Attorney's Office.

Rothers filed for bankruptcy in November 2015 but failed to disclose $100,000 in gold coins; $686,000 in bank deposits for two of his companies; and $455,484 in uncashed checks.

Rothers had the assets to pay his creditors easily, according to the court records. Rothers secreted away more than $1 million in assets in what the district attorney's office termed a "senseless attempt" to avoid paying $173,591 owed creditors.

U.S. District Attorney Andrew Luger and Assistant Attorney Jordan Sing supported a sentence below the guidelines in papers filed with the court. While they stated that "greed is the only explanation for Rothers' crime," the prosecutors said he deserves a lesser sentence for "seeing the errors of his ways."

The attorneys stated, "Rothers fully accepted responsibility, cooperated in the investigation, and ensured his creditors were repaid."

Rothers, who divorced in 2014, remarried his longtime girlfriend in 2021. They live in a mobile RV with a South Dakota address while continuing to construct grain bins across the country, according to papers filed with the court by his attorney, Christopher Madel of Minneapolis.

The defense attorney asked the court to impose a sentence of probation rather than prison. He told the court that Rothers has taken full responsibility for his mistakes, and lived an exemplary life since this matter arose.

He said Rothers did not live in luxury during the time he committed the offense, and is "kind, generous and humble." The attorney also wrote: "Through hard work and dedication, he has achieved incredible success building grain bins for our nation's heartland."

Rothers resigned as mayor of Kekhoven only months into his term in 2017. He had taken the city to court over a 54-foot-tall concrete tower he built on his property along U.S. Highway 12 on the city's west end.