Man's Golf-Cart Scheme Lands Him in Prison

Authorities say Nathan Rodney Nelson admitted to stealing, trying to steal 84 carts
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 13, 2022 11:05 AM CDT
Man's Golf-Cart Scheme Lands Him in Prison
   (Getty Images)

A Florida man ran into financial trouble. The scheme he concocted to get out of it has landed him in prison for two years. Authorities say Nathan Rodney Nelson, 46, confessed to stealing or trying to steal 84 golf carts across a number of states starting in 2017. He pleaded guilty to one count of interstate transportation of stolen property in federal court in December; he was sentenced Tuesday. Authorities say Nelson—a former Minnesota resident who was living in Apollo Beach, Fla., at the time of his arrest—generally operated under the cover of night, hitting golf courses in the Upper Midwest, where he'd take a pair of carts at a time.

He made use of "common ignition keys"—the New York Times reports that court documents don't detail how he got the keys—to start the carts and drive them onto a waiting trailer. The West Central Tribune reports via court documents that he would change the serial numbers prior to selling them. What is clear is one detail that ended up giving him away: his phone number. The AP reports the FBI began investigating Nelson in July 2019 after the Cass County Sheriff’s Office in Fargo, ND, requested its help. Thirteen months later, he was connected with a self-storage facility in Illinois where eight carts were being kept. Authorities say Nelson used an alias to rent the unit but provided his phone number, per an FBI affidavit. He was arrested in June 2021.

Nelson's plea agreement explained that he sold the carts, generally for $2,500 a piece, in the Dakotas, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, and Wisconsin via Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. The AP cites investigators who said he managed to steal at least 63 golf carts valued at $283,500. The Tribune notes US District Judge Peter Welte pointed out the case is an odd one in that federal sentencing guidelines specified a term of 24 to 30 months, which is less than most state-level sentencing recommendations for such a crime. Though Nelson faces state-level charges in four states, his attorney expects they'll be dismissed. (More weird crimes stories.)

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