It's tough finding a piece of land to hunt, especially in a big buck hotspot like Ohio. Unfortunately, authorities say at least 68 people who thought they'd landed access to a quality spot in the Buckeye State were sold a lie by a man who had no rights to the properties he was selling leases on.
The Department of Justice announced 30-year-old Nathanal L. Knox will spend a year and one day in prison and will be forced to pay $18,037 in restitution for a 2019 scheme in which he placed advertisements for available hunting leases on at least 38 different hunting Facebook groups. According to authorities, Knox further tempted his victims by sending them photos of big bucks, and falsely claimed the photos showed deer taken by people who had used the leases in years past. Knox negotiated prices with unsuspecting hunters that ranged anywhere from $400 to $5,000. He then requested payments from victims via Venmo, PayPal, Western Union, Money Gram, or Walmart 2 Walmart.
Authorities say the 68 victims were all from out of state. At least 59 of the 68 people solicited sent some sort of initial payment to Knox. These payments totaled over $34,000.
According to Ohio News, Knox was caught after two victims from Florida travelled to one of Knox's alleged lease areas, only to find out from the land's real owner they had been scammed. This led to a large investigation involving the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Fayette County Sheriff's Office, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Eventually authorities arrested Knox when he tried to collect the second half a $5,000 lease fee from the two Florida victims.
It seems authorities are trying to make an example of this case in hopes of dissuading this type of fraudulent activity in the future.
"The defendant's crimes were deliberate, detailed, and harmed a great many people," U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Kenneth Parker said in a DOJ press release. "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 those 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."
The greater lesson here is for hunters to be extremely cautious when trying to obtain a hunting lease, and to ensure the person selling the lease really is the owner of the land in question.
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