A Florida man has been convicted of the most Florida man-crime I can think of: stealing golf carts. The scope of the thefts was wide, however, and these weren’t like when a retiree pops out of the convenience store to find their golf cart gone.
Instead, it involves dozens of thefts in seven states of the Upper Midwest, with a total over 63 stolen golf carts worth more than $283,500. The FBI was called in, but it took the feds about a year to catch the cart thief, per the Associated Press.
The feds joined late in the investigation, after a North Dakota Sheriff asked for the bureau’s help in 2019. The original investigation started in 2017, after multiple thefts were reported across North and South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin. No arrests followed the reports, and the thief wouldn’t be caught until three years later in Georgia. From the AP:
[Nathan Rodney] Nelson, a former Minnesota resident living in Apollo Beach, Florida, was eventually arrested in June 2020 while he was caught trying to steal golf carts from a dealer in Donalsonville, Georgia. He also was carrying pre-printed serial number labels and burglary tools, according to court documents.
Nelson would typically steal carts in pairs from rural Midwestern golf courses, usually at night. He sold many of the carts under the alias Mason Weber, at a cost of about $2,500 each, court documents show.
OK. At that price, the 46-year old thief wasn’t exactly making out like a bandit.
If he’d sold the stolen golf carts at $2,500 a pop, that would get him about $157,500, which is way less than what the carts were worth. Of course, stolen golf carts would get below actual value but the thief’s defense attorney claimed he was only trying to pay his bills after his business folded:
Defense attorney Lorelle Moeckel said in a sentencing memorandum that her client was not able to keep his business going and pay his bills. He came up with the idea to steal golf carts to solve his financial problems and “from there it became easier and easier for him to stray from his long held moral compass.”
I think what undermines the attorney’s argument is that the thief’s MO was as thorough as any legit business. The Donalsonville News outlined the steps, beginning with the carts stolen in pairs from golf courses, then driven to a second location and finally dropped off at storage units across state lines.
The FBI used this to charge Nelson, who pled guilty to interstate transportation of stolen property. The golf cart thief will serve two years in prison, and be made to repay just $14,000. Never mind; maybe he made out like a bandit, after all.