Ohio Man Scams 59 People with Fake Hunting Leases

Ohio Man Scams 59 People with Fake Hunting Leases

In 2019, Nathanal L. Knox plotted and implemented a scheme that was sure to land him some money. This year it landed him a seat in the courtroom, too. According to a press release from the Department of Justice, Knox placed advertisements on at least 38 Facebook pages, including Hunt Florida, Ohio Hunting Lease, Bow Hunting PA, and Alabama Deer Hunters, selling leases for quality hunting property in Ohio—property that he does not own.

The 30-year-old Ohio resident provided images of big bucks and falsely claimed that previous clients harvested them on the land in question to assure victims of his legitimacy. He charged anywhere from $400 to $5,000 for the leases and accepted payments through PayPal, Walmart2Walmart, Money Gram, Western Union, and Venmo. After Knox received the initial money transfer, he sent contracts and instructions via email.

When two hunters from Florida traveled to the lease site to scout the area, they were confronted by the actual landowner and realized they were victims of fraud. They immediately contacted the sheriff's department and set up a time to meet with Knox under the impression that they would be paying him the second half of a $5,000 fee.

Because of the help from these two hunters, the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department arrested Knox on Sept. 30, 2019. Around this time, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife also received multiple complaints from other landowners. Together, ODNR and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducted an investigation involving search warrants on social media accounts, subpoenas on payment facilitators, and interviews of victims.

“Protecting sustainable hunting of America's wildlife resources is bedrock to our mission in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” Edward Grace, assistant director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement, said in the press release. “Investigating those who prey on individuals attempting to hunt lawfully by defrauding them is our trusted responsibility to the American people.”

Over the course of his scandal, Knox solicited initial payments from at least 59 individuals, all of whom weren’t Ohio residents. In total, he gained more than $34,000 in illicit income. He pleaded guilty to wire fraud and will be sentenced in the coming months by a federal district court judge. The maximum penalty he could receive is 20 years in prison.

“The Department of Justice prosecutes fraud in many forms,” Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division said. “The defendant’s scheme not only cheated dozens of innocent people, but also put landowners and hunters in harm’s way. The Department is grateful to its law enforcement partners for stopping Knox before anyone was injured.”

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