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Utah entrepreneur charged with scamming 'vulnerable' romantic partner out of home equity

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Posted at 7:46 PM, Oct 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-05 22:37:38-04

UTAH COUNTY — A businessman who co-founded a belt company and successfully pitched it on Shark Tank has been charged with defrauding a romantic partner out of nearly $200,000 while he was still married to another woman.

Nathanael Reid Holzapfel, a 42-year-old Orem resident, was charged last week with three 2nd-degree felony counts of communications fraud.

Holzapfel was a co-founder of Mission Belt, a company that makes belts with ratchet-like mechanisms instead of traditional buckles. They are popular among male Latter-day Saint missionaries and are sold at various local stores that specialize in missionary attire. The company also says it donates a portion of its profits to charity, giving microloans to entrepreneurs around the world, especially in developing countries.

According to charging documents, Holzapfel began dating a woman in February 2020. Prosecutors said the woman was a "vulnerable" victim who was divorced, had significant health problems and cared for a disabled adult child in a wheelchair. Holzapfel, however, was allegedly still married during their courtship and did not tell the victim.

Holzapfel "quickly" started asking the woman about her personal finances, including how much equity she had in her home. When she told him she had about $200,000 of equity, he told her he could help her protect that and save her from paying high capital gains taxes if she had to sell her home one day.

Court records state that in May 2020, he took the woman to a title company "as a surprise" and pressured her to transfer home ownership interest to his limited liability company called Save My House, LLC.

The woman was hesitant to sign the documents, but ultimately relented "based on [Holzapfel's] representations and her growing love and affection for [him]," the probable cause statement says.

Investigators with the Utah County Attorney's Office also interviewed a person who witnessed the transaction at the title company, who said it was clear the woman did not want to sign the Quit Claim Deed.

Holzapfel also did not tell the victim that he was experiencing financial problems, including being ordered to pay more than $250,000 in a lawsuit. Court documents did not state further details on the lawsuit, but Holzapfel was reportedly sued by talk show host Larry King in 2018 for misusing video footage of a “mock interview” between the two for purposes other than what they agreed upon. King won the suit, and Holzapfel had to pay him $250,000 — plus $8,600 for King’s legal fees.

After signing ownership of her home to Holzapfel’s LLC, the woman told him multiple times that she changed her mind and wanted him to transfer it back into her name, but she said he refused to do so.

Holzapfel then began pressuring the woman to sell her home and invest half of the equity into another business of his called Bristle & Beard, LLC. She eventually agreed, although “reluctantly.” However, she said he did not tell her that the business didn’t actually exist at the time. Holzapfel listed the home for sale in July 2020 and it was sold the next month, but the company was not registered until November 2020 — which only happened after the woman threatened to report him to law enforcement, according to court records.

When the house was sold, the woman said Holzapfel handled all negotiations and paperwork, but would not give her any of the paperwork and didn’t even tell her how much it sold for.

Holzapfel then deposited the net proceeds from the sale — $207,773.14 — into a domestic limited partnership called NILC, LLP, which was registered in the state of Alaska with him and his wife as the listed partners.

Investigators later found that the NILC account was overdrawn with a negative balance at the end of March and April of 2020, which he did not tell the woman. At the end of May 2020, the account had a positive balance of only $105.89.

Investigators say Holzapfel then began transferring the funds from the sale of the house into other accounts, using the money to pay off personal debts such as his vehicle, credit cards and attorney fees. He also used the funds to buy guns, gun supplies and other “expensive luxury items,” according to charging documents.

Between Sep. 1, 2020 and Jan. 14, 2021, Holzapfel allegedly spent more than $159,000 from the sale of the woman’s home “for his sole benefit.”

During this time, the woman said she told Holzapfel many times that she wanted him to return the full amount from the sale of her home back to her, but he refused to do so and continued to pressure her to invest in Bristle & Beard. All the while, she said he never told her that he was already spending that money for personal use.

In or around November 2020, the woman threatened to report him to the police. He then allegedly cut off all contact with her and disappeared.

During the investigation, police were not able to physically locate Holzapfel and only spoke to him briefly on the phone.

A warrant was issued last week for his arrest, and he was booked Tuesday. He was released on a $20,000 bail bond and is scheduled to appear in court Nov. 3.