Con artist nailed for selling fake hunting leases in Ohio
Two hunters from Florida have purchased access to hunt private land in Ohio. But when they showed up as a scout, the landowner confronted them. He wasn’t the seller of the lease, and they were trespassing. It was then that they realized they had been duped.
The guilty? Nathanal Knox, who was recently arrested for deceiving at least 59 people with promises of private hunts on land in Ohio he did not own. He raised $34,000 in 2019 through various payment methods including Pay Pal and Venmo, which led to a guilty plea for wire fraud. He now faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
“The defendant’s scheme not only deceived dozens of innocent people, but also endangered landowners and hunters.” Todd Kim, assistant counsel for the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, said in a press release.
“Unfortunately, individuals can find themselves victimized in so many different ways,” said Kenneth Parker, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio. “In this case, it was a fraudulent hunting lease scheme, which we shut down to ensure no one else was being exploited by Knox.”
Knox reportedly charged people $400 to $5,000 per hunt depending on the perceived value of a package. He embellished his advertisements with photos of dollars raised by “former clients”. Hunters usually bought leases in two installments, first with a down payment, then the rest. The two Florida men had already paid their deposit when they argued with the real landowner. When they figured out what was going on, they set up a meeting with Knox to pay their rest and let law enforcement deal with it.
“Protecting the sustainable harvest of US wildlife is the foundation of our mission at the US Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Edward Grace, deputy director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement. “Investigating those who prey on individuals who attempt to hunt legally by defrauding them is our responsibility to the American people.”
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Hunting leases have become a common way for deer hunters to target big bucks, but some states offer other alternatives for people to access private hunting grounds. Ohio offers hunters access to private land through a partnership program launched in 2018 and funded by the Farm Bill. The state pays registered landowners $2 to $30 per acre for two to three years if they allow hunters access to their property. These hunters must have a free daily permit.