Most Minnesotans prefer to be associated with the “Minnesota Nice” label. Unfortunately there are a few greedy, scandalous, and not so nice individuals who have called Minnesota home. The following is a list of a few of these individuals who have grabbed national or international headlines.
- Shirwa Ahmed (Somalia)
Ahmed is known as the “First American Suicide Bomber”. He immigrated to the U.S. as a child from Somalia and was enrolled at Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis in September 1996. He also became an American citizen. In 2008 he drove a car loaded with explosives into a government compound in the Puntland State of Somalia, killing a total of 21 people.
- Isadore Blumenfeld (Romania)
Mobster; considered the “Al Capone” of Minneapolis gangsters. Blumenfeld had ties to the “Chicago Outfit” and New York’s Genovese crime family dating back to the prohibition period. He was tried, but then acquitted, for the murder of newspaperman Walter Liggett. He is often times associated with the dismantling of the Twin City Lines street railway system in the early 1950s.
- Derek Chauvin (birthplace unknown)
A Former Minneapolis Police Officer who was charged with 2nd Degree Murder of George Floyd, a Black American who Chauvin held to the ground with his knee to Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes, 46 seconds. Floyd died as a result of this leading to world wide protests and rioting in May 2020.
- Trevor Cook (unknown birthplace)
Cook was certainly not on the same scale as the infamous Bernie Madoff in New York, but Cook is the most infamous Minnesota Ponzi Scheme villain. In April 2010 he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for running a scheme that defrauded more than 1,000 victims out of at least $190 million.
- Andrew Cunanan (San Diego, CA)
Cunanan only lived in Minnesota for a few days, but his infamous killing spree began here. Cunanan was the murderer of fashion designer Gianni Versace, and at least four other people. His first two victims were killed in Minneapolis in April 1997, Versace was killed in July 1997. Cunanan committed suicide eight days later.
- Hal Greenwood, Jr. (unknown)
Former chairman and CEO of Midwest Federal Savings and Loan Association. Greenwood was one of the few savings and loan officials to be sentenced in the Savings and Loan meltdown in the late 1980’s. He spent forty-six months in prison and was ordered to forfeit $3.6 million.
- Denny Hecker (Minneapolis, MN)
A former Twin Cities auto mogul who was sentenced on February 11, 2011 to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to bankruptcy and wire fraud. He was also ordered to pay $31 million in restitution, mostly to auto financing companies. Hecker and a business partner doctored paperwork in a 2007 scheme that defrauded Chrysler Financial, Hyundai, Suzuki, U.S. Bank and other lenders.
- Luke Helder (Pine Island, MN)
Helder became better known as the “Happy Face” or “Smiley Face” bomber. In 1984, he placed pipe bombs in rural mailboxes and rigged them to explode when the mailbox was opened. In total, six people were injured and more than 18 bombs were found across the Midwest. He planned to place pipe bombs around the country to create a smiley face shape on the United States map. A federal judge found Helder incompetent to stand trial.
- Michael Karkoc (Ukraine)
Karkoc is reportedly a commander of Nazi SS-led unit during World War II who in 2013 was found living in Minnesota. He helped found the Ukrainian Self Defense Legion, a unit of Ukrainian nationalist soliders who fought alongside the German army. He was a member of two military units that were accused of massacring whole villages in Poland. He received orders directly from the German SS. He has lived in Minneapolis for over 60 years.
- Douglas McAuthur McCain (Illinois)
McCain was born in Illinois, but grew up in Minnesota and died in Syria – alongside fellow Islamic terrorists known as ISIS. He was killed in Iraq in August 2014.
- Mahamud Said Omar (Somalia)
Omar was the first man to stand trial in a U.S. investigation into the recruitment of 20-40 men who have left Minnesota beginning in 2007 to join al-Shabab, a terrorist group linked to al-Qaida. He was convicted on five terrorism-related counts for providing money for al-Shabab weapons and helping young recruits get plane tickets to Somalia.
- Dr. Walter Palmer (North Dakota)
A Bloomington, MN Dentist who grabbed international headlines for his killing of a beloved 13 year old lion named “Cecil” who lived in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park in July 2015. According to reports, Palmer was on a safari in which his guides lured Cecil into a non-protected area and then shot with a bow and arrow. Palmer claims that the hunt was legal. He was cleared of all charges in October 2015.
- Tom Petters (St. Cloud, MN)
Former CEO and chairman of Petters Group Worldwide. He was convicted of turning Petters Group Worldwide into a $3.65 billion Ponzi scheme and sentenced to 50 years in federal prison. In his early business days he was an extremely successful businessman. In 2002 he purchased Fingerhut with a partner. In 2005, he purchased the Polaroid brand for $426 million. In 2006 he acquired Sun Country Airlines. In 2008, federal investigators raided the Petters headquarters and the investigation resulted in prison time for Petters. He now calls home Leavenworth Federal Prison in Leavenworth, Kansas.
- Christie Prody (Moorhead, MN)
Prody started dating O.J.Simpson shortly after he was acquitted of killing Nicole Simpson. She spent more than 13 years with him before finding her own justice. She has several encounters with law enforcement including a 1999 citation for animal cruelty. In 2012 she was charged with second-degree burglary, theft and 5th degree drug possession. In 2013 she was charged with felony robbery in North Dakota.
- Jammie Thomas-Rasset (Brainerd, MN)
Thomas-Rasset was the first person to be tried by a jury for an online music file-sharing copyright infringement lawsuit in the United States. The lawsuit was brought by the recording industry association RIAA. She declined an original settlement of $5,000, but was found liable and eventually ordered to pay $222,000 in damages.