Utah entrepreneur who appeared on ‘Shark Tank’ charged with fraud
SALT LAKE CITY — Nate Holzapfel made millions of dollars selling belts after appearing on “Shark Tank,” but now the Utah County Attorney’s Office says he has scammed at least one woman out of $200,000 — and they think there are more victims.
Courtney Morton says Holzapfel connected with her on Instagram last year. She’s a single mother and cancer survivor that lives with her disabled adult son and said says it was a vulnerable time for her as her father, whom she called her “rock,” had recently died.
She believes Holzapfel trolled her online and found someone he could scam. Investigators said that’s exactly what he did.
She said the two of them started a romantic relationship over the next few months. They were falling in love, talking about getting married. Now, a year and a half later, Morton is out her home, car and all of the equity she had.
“I’ve gone through every emotion,” Morton said through tears. “I’ve gone through severe depression, where I didn’t want to live anymore.”
She said she’s also been embarrassed and knows how this looks.
“Hindsight is 20/20,” she said. “He knew exactly the right things to say to a person in a very vulnerable position.”
Morton said Holzapfel knew she missed her father. “He would say things like, ‘I really wish I would have known your dad. We would have really hit it off,’” she said.
She now says her father would have told her to run. Last summer Holzapfel had her sign her house over to an LLC he told her he owned. She said she was hesitant but trusted him. After all, they were talking about getting married and buying something together to give them a fresh start.
But a few months later, he sold her house and had the money wired directly to him — something he could do since she had already signed everything over to him.
When Morton finally went to the police, she said Sgt. Cole Christensen, an attorney and lead investigator with the Utah County Attorney’s Office, got to work. On Monday, they arrested Holzapfel on felony fraud charges.
“We have additional victims that are coming forward and we believe there are others,” Christensen said. “Hold this person accountable.”
But to authorities’ dismay, Holzapfel posted bail in 90 minutes.
In a statement, Utah County Attorney David Leavitt said, “A person is walking free today because he was wealthy enough to post cash bail. It demonstrates at its heart what is wrong with Utah’s cash bail system. It doesn’t protect society. It protects the wealthy.”
Wealthy on what investigators said is stolen money.
Morton doesn’t think she will ever see the money Holzapfel allegedly stole from her. But now, she said her mission is to stop Holzapfel, the former owner of Mission Belts, a company that made him millions, from preying on any other innocent victims.
“My goal, in talking to you, is if there are any women out there that are struggling with coming forward just know that you have support,” she said.
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