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Golf cart rustler sentenced for thefts in Minnesota, North Dakota, other Midwestern states

Some golf carts were stolen from a West Fargo store and Mapleton golf course, investigators said.

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Nathan Nelson.
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FARGO — A Florida man was sentenced Tuesday, April 12, to two years in federal prison for stealing golf carts and selling them.

U.S. District Judge Peter Welte sentenced Nathan Rodney Nelson, 45, after he pleaded guilty to transporting stolen property across state lines. A litany of other charges in the case were dismissed.

Nelson faced up to 10 years in prison for using an alias to transport golf carts stolen in the Upper Midwest, according to court documents.

Prosecutors said he admitted stealing or trying to steal 84 golf carts in multiple states across the Midwest between 2017 and 2019, including Minnesota and the Dakotas.

Maple River Golf Course in Mapleton, North Dakota, and All Season Motorsports in West Fargo were targeted in the crime spree, according to the Cass County Sheriff’s Office. Nelson transported the carts throughout the Midwest and the Southeast, changed serial numbers and sold them, court documents alleged.

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In total, victims lost more than $220,000.

Prosecutors recommended Nelson serve two years in prison, while the defense argued that he should be sentenced to the 10 months he's already spent in custody.

Nelson has taken responsibility for his actions, his attorney Lorelle Moeckel wrote in a sentencing memorandum. The crimes are serious but nonviolent, the defense lawyer said.

“Nathan struggled financially with trying to keep his home inspection business going,” Moeckel wrote. “He was lured by the idea of quick, easy cash and made a very poor choice, which he deeply regrets.”

Nelson said he was ashamed of his past actions.

"I ask for mercy and apologize to anyone in court who was affected by this," Nelson said.

This case is strange not because Nelson stole and sold golf carts but because the federal sentence guidelines of 24 to 30 months in prison are lighter than most state-level sentencing recommendations for this type of crime, Welte said.

Nelson faces state-level charges in Minnesota, Ohio, Georgia and Illinois in connection to this case, but those likely will be dismissed, Moeckel said.

April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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