A man who fled a Minnesota federal prison 25 years ago has been caught in Las Vegas, thanks to facial-recognition technology employed when he was seeking state identification in Nevada.
Robert F. Nelson, 64, of North Las Vegas, applied to renew his state identification card on June 5, according to a statement issued Tuesday by the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
DMV investigators "withheld the card after the DMV's facial recognition system showed the same person had held a Nevada driver's license in the name of Craig James Pautler," the statement read.
Nelson was arrested at the DMV office, turned over to federal marshals on July 3 and is in a federal facility in Phoenix. Not only does he resume serving his remaining sentence, he'll have additional time in custody for the escape, said DMV spokesman Kevin Malone.
Nelson committed a string of violent felonies in Nevada under both names after escaping from the federal medical center prison in Rochester in connection with pulling off several counterfeiting crimes in the 1980s, the DMV statement continued.
Upon arriving in Nevada, he took the name Pautler, got a Nevada commercial driver's license and committed various crimes, among them armed robberies, burglaries and using a weapon to break out of a holding facility in Nevada, the DMV statement read.
Nelson dropped his phony name roughly 10 years ago and went back to his true identity. In 2013, he obtained a Nevada ID card using the name Nelson, the DMV said.
Minnesota's Department of Vehicle Services (DVS) also has had facial-recognition technology since 2008, but limits its use to ferreting out fraud in connection with obtaining a license or identity theft, said Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Megan Leonard.
The results of facial-recognition findings are "not available to outside agencies" for any other suspicions, Leonard said.
"When [identity or licensing] fraud is discovered, DVS first reaches out to the customer for additional information," she said. "Many times this will resolve the issue" without a finding of deception by the license seeker.
Leonard said most conflicts involve a name change or someone returning to Minnesota after moving to another state.
If willful licensing or identity fraud is detected, DVS will turn that information over to law enforcement, she added.