The Bandit Bumble

SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — One of the most popular documentaries streaming right now is The Tinder Swindler. It’s the story of how women were tricked by a man they met on the popular dating app who pretended to be someone he wasn’t. Although this story is international, KELOLAND has its own scammer who has used dating apps to gain and take advantage of women’s trust. Our KELOLAND News investigation follows in the footsteps of The Bumble Bandit.

These days, finding the love of your life, or at least a Saturday night date, is as easy as swiping left or right on an app like Tinder or Bumble.

Sarah, who asked us not to tag her, decided to try online dating after getting out of a long-term relationship.

“Tinder is more of a hookup app, where Bumble is more where people look for relationships,” Sarah said.

Matthew Stephen Nelson

Sarah matched with this man on Bumble: Matthew Stephen Nelson.

“Sarah:” He was a handsome guy, he was very good with his words.
Kenneck: So tell me, did you swipe to the right?
“Sara:” Yeah.

The two hit it off and Sarah, who worked as a wedding photographer, invited Nelson to help with a photoshoot.

“He was so helpful, it was amazing. He charmed everyone there; complimented me all the time – how great I was at my job. Who doesn’t want to hear that? Sarah said.

Sarah says Nelson seemed almost too good to be true.

” We talked a lot. He came a little further. All my friends loved him. No one wondered who he was. What he showed up for is what we thought he was,” Sarah said.

Nelson told him that he was a construction manager for his father’s company.

“He would tell me, that’s the duty I’m doing today. I weld today; I’m hot today. And then when I saw him at the end of the day, he was all sweaty. And he looked like he did some construction,” Sarah said.

One evening, just before they left for a date, Sarah opened her camera bag.

“He comes up to me and says, ‘I just checked the back door.’ He said, ‘There’s a whole bunch of marks on it. I think someone broke in,” Sarah said.

Sarah called the police and the officer asked her if she thought Nelson had taken the equipment.

Sarah: I’m like, ‘no–no way it’s him.’ I made the mistake of reporting valuables that weren’t stolen.
Kenneck: To him?
Sarah: For him, yes.
Sarah: When I found out it was him was when I got home later that week and the rest of my stuff was gone.

This stuff included money and this ring, which Sarah says is worth $4,000.
Meanwhile, Nelson’s phone was suddenly turned off and he was unavailable.

Sarah’s missing ring

“It was my first experience with online dating,” said “Ashley.”

Immediately after dating Sarah, Nelson moved on, meeting another woman, this time through Tinder. She asked that we not show her face, and we call her “Ashley”.

“He was super dreamy, he was super attractive, so sweet, so kind, he said all these things he had going for him. He was always available if I needed anything,” Ashley said.

Ashley showed us these videos of Nelson playing with her child. As a single mother, Ashley held several jobs, including as a waitress. Shortly after meeting Nelson, the money she had for tips disappeared, but she assigned it to the construction workers who were at her house.

“Matt didn’t sound like a bad guy. He didn’t fit the narrative of someone who’s going to come into your house and rob you,” Ashley said.

Then she received a phone call from Nelson’s father.

“His dad pretty much told me the truth about him entirely. He said go check all your valuables because Matt probably stole more than you think. And the only real thing I had of any significant value was my wedding ring,” Ashley said.

As you might have guessed, the ring, which was worth thousands of dollars, was missing.

“Matt took my wedding ring, took it to a pawnshop and pawned it for $200,” Ashley said.

Nelson’s father ransomed him and returned him to Ashley.

KELOLAND Investigates contacted Matt’s father about the incident, but he declined to be interviewed.
However, Sarah visited after Matt robbed her and recorded the following conversation with Matt’s father on her phone.

“Matt is a smart kid, good-looking, nice personality. But such a manipulative liar,” his dad said.

He told Sarah how their whole family had been victimized by his son.

“He did it to me, he did it to his grandmother, his mother. There’s no reason not to believe him, is there, when he was talking to you. Yeah. Everything he tells you is totally believable. That’s how bad he is into his lies. However, he does not work here,” he said.

He told her that they put Matt into treatment for a gambling addiction, but that didn’t stop Matt from continuing to commit crimes.

“We probably spent $40,000 to $50,000 bailing him out, trying to help him. But he can’t help himself,” he said.

Sarah learned the truth during this conversation.

“He lied and said he was a manager of his father’s construction company and he wasn’t. He was unemployed.
He told me he lived in an apartment near my house, where I had picked him up before; only to find out he didn’t live there and was homeless and living in his car.

“Sarah”, victim of Matthew Nelson

Prosecutors have charged Matt Nelson with grand theft and being a repeat offender for stealing Sarah’s camera gear. Then Nelson disappeared for almost two years.

“And so between when it happened to me and now, he’s had a lot of time to do a lot of criminal activity, which he’s continued to do,” Sarah said.

Ashley says she’s living proof of that, but she never reported the theft to the police because she got her ring back.

Kenneck: Has it affected your ability to trust others? Have you been hurt by this? What did it do to you?
Ashley: It changed my perspective on dating and trusting people. You can be whoever you want on the internet.

Meanwhile, KELOLAND Investigates has been digging into Nelson’s criminal history since 2007. He was convicted of theft and fraud in Iowa and Minnesota.

He was also convicted in Clay County of a check forgery scheme in 2015.

Nelson’s father told Sarah what happened during their conversation.

“His brother is in medical school. He stole his brother’s car. He stole his brother’s identity, took his ID card, his passport and accumulated between 13,000 and 14,000 dollars in loans. He wrote checks in his account, stole money from his account, and he stole his car,” Matt’s father said.

For these charges, a judge sentenced Nelson to 5 years in prison and ordered him to repay nearly $9,000. To date, he has not paid a penny.

But that’s not all, in addition to charges of stealing Sarah’s photographic equipment, Nelson faces even more grand theft charges, accused of stealing his father’s company credit card and his brother’s identity in 2019 to buy tools in Sioux Falls and then pawn them.

“How bad do we feel? Give, give, give, then he robs us. We keep giving and he flies again,” Matt’s dad said.

After two years on the run, Nelson was found in the Omaha area and pleaded guilty to stealing Sarah’s cameras.

Lincoln County State’s Attorney Tom Wollman prosecuted the case:

“People don’t come with warning labels. You find that out, especially in individuals with sociopathic traits, and I’m not here to say that Matthew Nelson is a sociopath, but sociopaths come across as very charming, gregarious, super-friendly individuals, they all say. good things, do all the right things, and ultimately what you find is that it’s just a house of cards.

Lincoln County State’s Attorney Tom Wollman

Lincoln County State’s Attorney Tom Wollman prosecuted the grand theft case, involving the camera equipment, against Matthew Nelson

The judge sentenced Nelson to four years in prison and ordered him to repay Sarah more than $10,000.

“It’s a total betrayal. You open up to someone with the intention that they love and care about you and think they have your best interests at heart. And then to find out that they were actually using you, there are no words to describe that,” Sarah said.

“Certainly be more careful, with online dating in particular, it’s the internet. Matt wasn’t at all like he said he was. But he said the same thing to how many different women and we all believed it,” Ashley said.

Nelson is due to stand trial by jury on the latest grand larceny charges in June. He is currently serving his prison sentence for taking Sarah’s equipment. but he could be released within a few years.

We asked to tell him about this story through his lawyer, but we never received a response.

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