'Serial con man' facing probation violations
News 6 investigation found Michael Nelson running law firm, church
ORLANDO, Fla. – A longtime convicted con man featured in a News 6 investigation could be sent back to federal prison if a judge finds he violated the terms of his supervised release.
Michael Anthony Nelson, who prosecutors have described as a "serial con man," has spent more than 15 of the past 17 years in federal prison for bank fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, computer fraud and aggravated identity theft, records show.
Last week, a federal magistrate judge dismissed some of the probation violations against Nelson, citing inadequate evidence that he broke certain rules of his supervision.
However, the judge found probable cause that Nelson may have violated a rule of his probation that prohibited him from serving in a "fiduciary capacity."
While on supervised release from prison, a News 6 investigation revealed that Nelson was acting as the senior pastor of Global LGBT Life Church, an online ministry in which Nelson streamed nightly prayer services on YouTube and other video websites.
Nelson acknowledged he did not tell his probation officer about the church, which was based out of his Orlando home, or his efforts to solicit tax-deductible donations.
Shortly before the church’s website appeared online in December 2016, Nelson served as the “chief litigation liaison and compliance officer” for Marsha Ward & Team Ombudsman, a Winter Park business described in advertisements as a “law firm,” News 6 uncovered.
In March, following a series of News 6 reports about Nelson's questionable activities while on supervised release, U.S. Marshals arrested Nelson for a series of probation violations.
According to the U.S. Probation Office, when Nelson began operating the online church, he violated a rule requiring him to notify his probation officer about any changes in employment.
However, U.S. Magistrate Judge Gregory J. Kelly could find no probable cause that Nelson violated that rule since prosecutors presented no evidence that Nelson raised any money for his church. Likewise, there was no evidence that Nelson was employed by the church, Kelly found.
But the judge refused to dismiss several other violations against Nelson related to a special condition of his supervised release that prohibits Nelson from maintaining a position of "fiduciary capacity."
"Acting as a lawyer is clearly acting in a fiduciary capacity," Kelly wrote.
According to Nelson's probation officer, Nelson accepted checks from three clients of the law firm totaling $6,500, which he deposited into his personal bank account.
At a later court hearing, a federal judge will be asked to decide whether Nelson did, in fact, violate that probation requirement.
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