Authorities in Arizona have accused a 49-year-old Chandler man of faking a terminal illness in order to delay his impending criminal trial — and allege he also defrauded dozens of people out of thousands of dollars through an online fundraising campaign.
Scottsdale Police only recently detailed the allegations against Christopher Wade Nelson, who was arrested in late July following a seven-month-long investigation.
Nelson was charged with felony counts of fraud, aggravated identity theft, forgery, and witness tampering, PEOPLE confirms.
According to KNXV-TV, Nelson was on pre-trial release awaiting trial on charges filed against him in 2016, when he allegedly faked having pancreatic cancer in order to defraud his high school friends of $30,000 in donations.
He allegedly accepted those donations from 20 individuals over five years, and ultimately sent out emails to his purported victims, saying he had committed suicide, reports the station. As a result, police charged him with fraudulent schemes.
It was unclear if he ever entered a plea in that case, or to these new charges.
According to KTVK, between May 2018 and May 2020, Nelson allegedly claimed he'd been diagnosed with ALS, a deadly neurological disease that slowly takes away a person's ability to control his or her muscles.
He also allegedly claimed he had to use a motorized wheelchair and walkers to get around.
Investigators allege Nelson forged documents from the Mayo Clinic as part of a scheme designed to prolong the start of his upcoming trial.
It is further alleged he used Instagram to convince the owner of a vehicle shop to fix his truck for free, all so he could take "one last ride."
Nelson also allegedly used Instagram to convince a physical therapist as well as actual ALS patients and their families to organize a fundraiser for a speech-generating device he claimed to need. As a result, $9,000 was raised for Nelson.
According to detectives, officers conducted video surveillance of Nelson, capturing him washing a car, performing yard work, doing heavy lifting, and even dancing.
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Without naming her, KSAZ-TV reports Nelson's wife was also arrested, but PEOPLE could not determine what charges she allegedly faces.
Police ask that anyone who believes they may have been defrauded by Nelson come forward and contact the Scottsdale Police Department's Financial Crimes Unit at (480) 312-8141.
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