DMV investigators catch federal fugitive on the run for 25 years

Robert Frederick Nelson, 64 (LVMPD)

A career criminal who turned violent after escaping federal custody and fleeing to Nevada has been brought back to justice, according to a Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles news release.

Robert Frederick Nelson, 64, of North Las Vegas committed a string of violent felonies in Nevada after he escaped from a Minnesota federal prison in 1992. He is now back in federal custody following his arrest by investigators from the DMV’s Compliance Enforcement Division.

Nelson applied for a renewal of his Nevada identification card on June 5. Investigators withheld the card after the DMV’s facial recognition system showed the same person had previously held a Nevada driver’s license in the name of Craig James Pautler.

Investigators found Nelson had a string of felony convictions under both names. He was arrested June 20 at the Decatur DMV office in Las Vegas on charges of failing to register as a felon and an outstanding traffic warrant.

Fraud charges relating to the false identity of Craig Pautler were added later.

Nelson was booked into the Clark County Detention Center. The federal Bureau of Prisons pursued extradition and Nelson was released into the custody of the U.S. Marshals on July 3.

"When you come in to get your driver's license photograph taken, and you stand in front of the camera, it measures your face. It measures things like the distance between your ear lobes and your nose and so forth," said DMV Spokesman Kevin Malone.

Malone said the technology has been in place since after 9/11, and it keeps improving.

He will serve his remaining sentence and additional time for his escape 25 years ago. The Nevada charges were dismissed to facilitate the extradition.

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