Due to the lapse in appropriations, Department of Justice websites will not be regularly updated. The Department’s essential law enforcement and national security functions will continue. Please refer to the Department of Justice’s contingency plan for more information.

You are here

Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Missouri

Friday, June 13, 2014

Lon O. Hocker Award

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Daniel M. Nelson, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, has been named a recipient of the prestigious Lon O. Hocker Award in recognition of his outstanding trial work in federal court.

“Dan Nelson earned this award in the trenches,” said Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri. “Dan successfully prosecuted the criminals who stole millions of dollars from the public in the largest tax case ever prosecuted in Missouri. He successfully prosecuted the criminals who stole from more than 12,000 investors across the country. And he diligently serves the United States by upholding the cause of justice at the federal courthouse every day.

“I’m pleased that Dan is receiving the public recognition that he deserves,” Dickinson added. “He is respected in the legal community as a tough, energetic litigator who comes to the courtroom armed with meticulous research and a keen intellect.”

The Missouri Bar Foundation describes the Lon O. Hocker Award: “This award is given to three trial lawyers who are under the age of 40 selected from different regions of the state: St. Louis, Kansas City and all other counties. The recipients are chosen based on their demonstrated balance between zealousness and honor, strength and courtesy, confidence and respect, as well as other professional qualities. Recipients must possess a quick wit in the courtroom that is supported by meticulous preparation in the pursuit of truth.”

Nelson, who currently works in the Fraud and Public Corruption Unit, prosecutes complex white collar criminal cases, such as securities fraud and other financial crimes. Nelson has also worked in the Computer Crimes and Child Exploitation Unit and served two years in management leadership as Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney.

The award, announced this week, will be presented at The Missouri Bar’s annual meeting on Sept. 10, 2014, in Kansas City. Nominations were taken from throughout the state by previous Lon O. Hocker Award winners, the Missouri Bar president, leaders, or members-at-large. The review committee was comprised of three or more federal or state judges.

Over the past five years, Nelson has prosecuted eight jury trials against 15 defendants. Those cases include:

  • A $96 million nationwide false tax refund conspiracy that was the largest tax case ever prosecuted in Missouri. The 16 conspirators recruited 127 clients and filed 237 false tax returns, claiming $96 million in refunds. They actually received and split over $3.5 million. Thirteen defendants pleaded guilty, two were convicted after a 6-day jury trial and one remains a fugitive.
  • The $10.2 million Petro America investment scam had more victims than any case previously prosecuted in the Western District of Missouri, with over 12,000 investors across the United States, Canada and overseas. The charges included conspiracy, wire fraud, securities fraud, money laundering and mail fraud. The five defendants who went to trial were convicted on all counts after a five-week-long jury trial. The remaining nine defendants all pleaded guilty.
  • The mayor of Stover, Mo., was convicted of misprision of a felony and lying to agents from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Environmental Protection Agency about coliform bacteria contamination in the city’s public water supply. The mayor and city manager manually added chlorine to city water samples they sent in for mandatory safety testing in an attempt to avoid being ordered to chlorinate the system. The mayor was convicted on all counts after a three-day jury trial and the city manager pleaded guilty prior to trial.
  • Four sophisticated armed bank robberies utilized diversions and switch cars in Kansas City, Gladstone, and Independence. Two co-defendants pleaded guilty before trial. The remaining defendant was convicted after a week-long jury trial.
  • A 15-year-long Social Security fraud scam by a mortgage company president who received disability benefits for 15 years despite starting and running his own company. A “sovereign citizen” who represented himself at trial, he was found guilty at the conclusion of a four-day jury trial.
  • A Grain Valley couple obtained and spent nearly $900,000 in fraudulent federal tax refunds. Defendants identified themselves as “sovereign citizens,” and they represented themselves at trial. Charges included conspiracy, false claims, money laundering, wire fraud, and presenting fictitious obligations. Both defendants were convicted on all counts.
  • Bank robbery of the Bank of Kansas City on Independence Avenue. Along with his hat and coat, this pro se defendant accidentally threw away the stolen money after fleeing the bank. Because the defendant was in shackles, all counsel were required to remain seated at their counsel tables for the entire jury trial. He was convicted on all counts.

Nelson grew up in St. Joseph, Mo., where he graduated from Central High School in 1994. He is a 1999 graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and a 2002 graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law. Prior to joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2004, he was an attorney at a top national law firm.

Nelson is also a member of the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association (Federal Court Advocates Section) and the Western District of Missouri Historical Society. He serves on the boards of Impact KC and the Child Protection Center. He has lectured on trial advocacy, cyber law, ethics and securities law at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, the University of Kansas School of Law and the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.

Mary B. Hocker established the Lon O. Hocker Awards in 1954 in memory of her late husband, an outstanding trial lawyer who practiced in St. Louis for more than 50 years. The Missouri Bar Foundation makes the awards annually to young lawyers who have demonstrated unusual proficiency in the art of trial advocacy. The award is presented to three lawyers 40 years of age or younger – one each from the St. Louis, Kansas City and outstate Missouri areas – in recognition of outstanding trial work.
Updated January 7, 2015