Ohio Man Busted for Selling Fake Hunting Leases on Private Land, Gets Prison Time

by Alex Falls

An Ohio man was sentenced for scamming dozens of people into buying fake hunting leases. Nathanal Knox was recently caught frauding at least 59 people into by leases for private hunts on land in Ohio he didn’t even own.

In total, he is suspected to have gathered $34,000 in 2019 through various payment methods such as PayPal and Venmo. Which lead to a guilty plea of wire fraud. According to the United State Department of Justice, he is now sentenced to one year and one day in prison for his illegal activities.

Knox’s scheme was discovered when two Florida hunters purchased access to private land in Ohio from one of Knox’s many online advertisements. However, when they arrived at the land for scouting, the landowner confronted them. He never sold any hunting leases for his land and the hunters were trespassing. They became victims of Knox’s con job.

“The defendant’s scheme not only cheated dozens of innocent people but also put landowners and hunters in harm’s way.” Todd Kim, Justice Department Environment and Natural Resources Division assistant attorney, said in a press release

“Unfortunately, individuals can find themselves being victimized in so many different ways,” said Kenneth Parker, Southern District of Ohio U.S. attorney. “In this case, it was a fraudulent hunting lease scheme, which we shut down to ensure no other persons were taken advantage of by Knox.”

Man Sentenced for Fake Hunting Lease Scheme

Reportedly, Knox was charging people between $400 and $5,000 per hunt based on the land’s perceived value. He created advertisements made to look real with photos of bucks harvested by “former clients.” Hunters usually purchased leases through two payments. First making a deposit, then the remainder later on.

The pair of men of Florida had paid their deposit by the time of their run-in with the real landowner. They were able to deduce what was happening and they set up a meeting with Knox to pay their remaining balance. But they also invited law enforcement to handle the situation appropriately.

“Protecting sustainable hunting of America’s wildlife resources is bedrock to our mission in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Edward Grace, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement assistant director. “Investigating those who prey on individuals attempting to hunt lawfully by defrauding them is our trusted responsibility to the American people.”

In addition to one year in prison, Judge Sarah D. Morrison of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio also sentenced Knox to three years of supervised release. Knox is also ordered to pay $18,037 in restitution.

“The defendant’s crimes were deliberate, detailed, and harmed a great many people,” said Parker. “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 these 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.”