An in connection with his execution of a scheme to solicit payments from dozens of individuals in exchange for purported hunting leases he had no rights to sell.
According to court documents, throughout 2019, Nathanal L. Knox, 30, of Ohio, operated a scheme where he placed online advertisements for hunting leases, supposedly available on several parcels of land in Ohio, but the defendant in fact had no rights to sell leases for the properties in question. He placed the advertisements on at least 38 different Facebook pages, including “Hunt Florida,” “Ohio Hunting Lease,” “Bow Hunting PA,” and “Alabama Deer Hunters.”
In these advertisements, the defendant solicited payment in exchange for purported hunting leases. The prices charged ranged from $400 to $5,000. The defendant requested payment from prospective clients be made through PayPal, Walmart 2 Walmart, Money Gram, Western Union and Venmo. When individuals inquired further about the purported leases, the defendant would provide pictures of mature bucks that he falsely claimed had been harvested by former clients on the parcels in question. After receiving initial payments, the defendant would send contracts and instructions via email. In total, the defendant solicited payment from at least 68 different individuals, all of whom resided outside of Ohio. At least 59 of these individuals sent initial payments to the defendant, totaling over $34,000.
Judge Sarah D. Morrison of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio sentenced Knox to one year and one day in prison, three years of supervised release and restitution of $18,037.
“The defendant was sentenced to prison for orchestrating a fraud scheme that preyed on unsuspecting individuals from all corners of the country,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The sentence is a reminder that the department is committed to prosecuting such offenses.”
“The defendant’s crimes were deliberate, detailed, and harmed a great many people,” said U.S. Attorney Kenneth L. Parker for the Southern District of Ohio. “His actions not only defrauded the unwitting individuals who fell victim to Knox’s lies, but also created a potentially combustible mixture of hunters who believed they had the right to be on these properties, and the landowners, who had not given permission to these individuals to access their property. Luckily, law enforcement partners halted this scheme before anyone was injured.”
“Protecting sustainable hunting of America’s wildlife resources is bedrock to our mission in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Assistant Director Edward Grace of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement. “Investigating those who prey on individuals attempting to hunt lawfully by defrauding them is our trusted responsibility to the American people.”
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife, in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, investigated this case.
Trial Attorney Adam Cullman of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, Environmental Crimes Section; Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, J. Michael Marous, for the Southern District of Ohio; and Assistant Ohio Attorney General Sally Smetzer Montell prosecuted the case.