FARGO — A 45-year-old Florida man is accused of stealing at least 63 golf carts from mostly rural golf courses across the Upper Midwest during possibly the past five years and then selling them to unsuspecting residents often through online marketplaces.
Nathan Rodney Nelson was charged this week in federal court in Fargo with transportation of stolen vehicles across state lines after a near two-year investigation.
Leading the investigation was local special FBI agent Aaron Dunn whose quest took many twists and turns after being initiated in Fargo in the summer of 2019.
Nelson, a Winthrop, Minn., native, also faces local charges in a few cities where the federal court complaint said he was caught in the act of taking the golf carts or having stolen carts in his possession. Each time he managed to escape or was let go.
Cass County Sheriff Jesse Jahner said his department "started the ball rolling" in the case almost two years ago when one of his detectives was investigating the theft of two golf carts from the Maple River Golf Course in Mapleton in July of 2019. About the same time, two carts were stolen from All Season Motorsports in West Fargo.
As the detective began looking further into the cases, he noticed there were stolen golf carts from many other courses in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin from 2017 to 2019.
Jahner said the FBI then became involved because of the breadth of the case and with the apparent transportation of the carts across state lines.
The sheriff said it was not only good police work by his detective but that FBI did the bulk of the work with an arrest finally made after almost two years of trying to track down the culprit.
Nelson, who also used the alias of Mason Weber in many of his dealings, would often store the stolen carts in storage units around the country.
He was finally apprehended last Friday, June 11, by the Seminole County Sheriff's Office in Donalsonville, Ga., after documents say he was caught in the act of attempting to steal golf carts from a local business there.
During his arrest, Nelson had two driver's license, one from Florida with his name and an Iowa license with his alias Mason Weber on it. In that Georgia case, he faces charges of criminal trespass, criminal attempt to commit a felony and possession of tools for commission of a crime.
On his pickup, he had a Minnesota license plate on the front and a Florida plate on the rear, said police there.
In the Fargo federal case, documents allege Nelson is responsible for the theft of 63 carts, but likely many more, in seven states including North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota and Wisconsin with a value in the amount of at least $283,500.
He often changed the serial numbers of the golf courts, said Dunn, before selling them.
In North Dakota, besides the Mapleton and West Fargo cases, it's believed Nelson stole four carts from Hillcrest Golf Club in Jamestown and six carts from Painted Woods Golf Course in Washburn.
The owner of All Season Motorsports in West Fargo also assisted in the case by tracking suspicious golf cart sales on the social media marketplaces and keeping in touch with the FBI.
It was not known Friday night where Nelson was being held. Calls to the Cass County Jail in Fargo and to the Seminole County Jail in Georgia found that he was not in custody in either location. Court documents said he made his appearance in federal court in Fargo by telephone.