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Emily Welker, Published February 06 2013

Man linked to pole-barn fraud claims accused of escaping from Cass jail

FARGO – A Cass County judge has issued an arrest warrant for a man who is accused of escaping from the county jail.

Benjamin Andrew Nelson is charged in Cass County District Court with felony escape after failing to report back to the jail after he was given permission to go out and look for a job on the jail’s work release program.

Court documents in the case claim he told jail officials he’d hurt his hand changing a tire and had to go to the emergency room. But a deputy called Sanford and Essentia Health to look for Nelson, and officials from both hospitals said Nelson wasn’t admitted to their emergency rooms.

Documents also allege that when jail officials checked Nelson’s locker, all his belongings but a pair of pliers were gone.

Nelson had been set for release in April after serving a 90-day sentence for misdemeanor theft.

He is also named in a cease and desist order, along with his father, mother and brother, issued in January by the North Dakota Attorney General.

The order forbids Nelson, his family members or their construction companies, Baron Buildings and AgPro Buildings, from doing business in the state.

The attorney general’s office claims in the order that the Nelsons defrauded customers in nine counties out of thousands of dollars by agreeing to build them pole barns but never finishing the work.

Katie Nelson, Benjamin Nelson’s wife, has told The Forum that she and her husband owned AgPro, and that it had nothing to do with her in-laws’ company. She denied the allegations made in the order.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Emily Welker at (701) 241-5541