Arizona man, 49, ‘faked having ALS to get a free motorized wheelchair, his truck fixed for “one last ride”, and a $9k speech device’ – while also facing charges for ‘scamming people out of $30k by faking cancer diagnosis’
- Arizona man Christopher Wade Nelson, 49, was arrested July 29 for pretending to have terminal ALS to get free gifts and free truck repairs, police say
- He was arrested following a seven-month long investigation by Scottsdale police
- Between May 2018 and May 2020 he got a free motorized wheelchair, and allegedly forged documents from doctors claiming to be sick
- He also had real ALS patients and their families fundraise for him to get a $9,000 speech-generating device, officials say
- At the time of arrest he was on pre-trial release for pending charges on another similar scam in 2016 where he allegedly faked having pancreatic cancer
- In that scandal he is accused of defrauding his high school acquaintances out of $30,000
Arizona man Christopher Wade Nelson, 49, was arrested July 29 for pretending to have terminal ALS to get free gifts and free truck repairs, police say
An Arizona man has been arrested after he allegedly faked having terminal Lou Gehrig’s disease to scam sympathetic donors into giving him a free motorized wheelchair, free truck repairs, and fundraise for a $9,000 speech device.
Christopher Wade Nelson, 49, was arrested on July 29 following a seven-month investigation on multiple felony charges including fraud, aggravated identity theft, forgery and witness tampering.
At the time of his arrest he was out on pre-trial release for pending charges related to another similar scam in 2016 where he allegedly faked having pancreatic cancer to defraud his high school friends for donations.
In that case he reportedly received $30,000 in donations from high school alumni over a five-year period and sent e-mails saying he died by suicide, according to ABC15.
Police surveillance video from July of Nelson’s home shows him walking and he was reportedly seen washing and driving a car, doing yard work, heavy lifting and dancing, despite claiming he needed a wheelchair
After being released he fraudulently claimed to have Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS) to dupe people into giving him free perks, gifts, and thousands of dollars, and to avoid court, officials say.
ALS is a progressive nervous system disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control.
Police say Nelson engaged in the schemes between May 2018 and May 2020 to delay his pending criminal trial.
Police say he used Instagram to ask the owner of an auto shop to repair his 1951 Chevy truck for free so he could take ‘one last ride’ due to his ‘terminal ALS’.
He also reportedly ‘fabricated, forged and with intent to defraud, documents allegedly from Mayo Clinic Physicians, submitted through his legal counsel…faking a terminal illness to avoid court appearances.’
The Mayo clinic says it did not sign the documents related to his illness.
He also used social media to get a physical therapist and real ALS patients to conduct a $9,000 fundraiser to get him a speech device, it is alleged.
In February 2020 when Nelson appeared in court, he arrived in a motorized wheelchair and his attorney said he could no longer speak.
Nelson pictured standing with a mask on in his latest court appearance after his arrest. In previous court appearances he appeared in a wheelchair and claimed he couldn’t speak
Police say he used Instagram to ask the owner of an auto shop Big Happy Rods in Mesa to repair his 1951 Chevy truck for free so he could take ‘one last ride’ due to his ‘terminal ALS’
But police surveillance video of his home from July shows Nelson walking and he was reportedly seen washing and driving a car, doing yard work, heavy lifting and dancing, cops say.
Scottsdale police determined he is ‘healthy, mobile and utilizes verbal communication skills clearly and easily’.
Now Nelson remains in custody on new charges, in addition to violating his pre-trial release conditions.
Police say Nelson was checked out by jail doctors who confirmed he does not have ALS.
Nelson was arrested in December 2017 for an alleged 2016 scam where he claimed to have pancreatic cancer and duped friends from high school out of $30,000 to help with his medical costs. While out on pre-trial release, he allegedly launched the ALS scam
His wife was also arrested but has been released.
Robert Ellingson, the owner of auto shop Big Happy Rods in Mesa said he was scammed by Nelson and repaired his truck for free.
‘Somebody hit me up claiming to be his daughter, he had ALS and didn’t have long to live. He was tinkering with an old truck he had forever – trying to get it running, but couldn’t,’ Ellingson said to Fox10.
Ellingson says he often takes on pro bono projects and donated parts and his labor to Nelson after learning of the diagnosis.
‘It’s just a slap in the face when somebody’s lying about it,’ he said.
‘This weekend, I got hit up on one of the parts I have for sale, and the guy hit me up and asked is there a disabled veterans discount. I said, “Yeah, if you have the proper credentials,”‘ he added.
Police are asking anyone who may have been defrauded by Nelson to contact their Financial Crimes Unit at 480-312-8141.