Brooten, Minn., divided and devastated after alleged pulltab swindle

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Brooten, Minn., divided and devastated after alleged pulltab swindle


BROOTEN, MINN. – An alleged swindle of gambling proceeds that were the main source of charitable donations for Brooten has divided and devastated the small town.

Jana Zenner, 38, a well-known local business owner, has been charged in Stearns County District Court with felony theft by swindle. She is accused of stealing more than $135,000 in pulltab revenue while president of the Brooten Commercial Club, which held the state license for charitable gambling in the city of 750 residents about 115 miles northwest of the Twin Cities.

Zenner was convicted last month of a separate felony swindling charge in neighboring Pope County for stealing nearly $49,000 from an elderly family friend.

Residents are having a hard time grasping the allegation that a favorite local daughter and community leader was at the center of such swindles.

“It’s just mind-boggling. It really is,” said Randy Olson, owner of the local newspaper, the Bonanza Valley Voice. “Obviously, everyone has a bad taste in their mouth.”

“There’s been so much damage done,” said Tony Rooney, owner of Rooney’s Bar in the village of Sedan, about 8 miles outside Brooten. “It tore our community apart. Many people are angry with her, and probably for good reason.”

According to the court complaint, Zenner stole the pulltab money from 2016 to 2018 and “admitted she had taken the money to keep her multiple businesses in town afloat.” She also admitted burning pulltab games to destroy evidence.

Zenner owns several businesses in town, including a liquor store, market and gift shop. A Brooten native and local high school graduate, she’s served in several leadership roles in the community.

Zenner’s lawyer, Minneapolis defense attorney Paul Engh, said she hopes to set everything right.

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