Saturday, December 9, 2023


RV arsonist rats himself out—ordered to pay $1 million plus

When fire broke out at Wold’s RV in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, investigators got help from an unusual source. The Wold’s RV arsonist himself phoned in tips that led to his own arrest. Now Daniel Martin Kaufman of Wadena, Minnesota, is on a payment hook that could last a very long time. A judge has ordered Kaufman to pay $100 a month as restitution on a nearly $1.2 million set of damages.

Anonymous phone call

The fire call came on December 29, 2020, at 9:45 at night. Flames were blasting out of the windows on the east side of a steel building at Wold’s RV. It didn’t take long for investigators to figure out somebody had lit fire to the place. Investigators found fresh foot tracks in the snow—and tire tracks near a neighboring business. The question, who did they belong to? Just who was the Wold’s RV arsonist? They asked for the public’s help, and soon got an anonymous telephone call.

A Big Bite fish house. Wold’s RV.

The secret tipster suggested the RV arsonist may have been upset with the business. They also suggested that somehow a fish house could be involved. For those unfamiliar with fish houses, they’re portable cabins on wheels that can be pulled out on icy lakes. Hatches through the floor allow fisherfolks to cut through the ice, drop a line, and fish without freezing their tushes.

Armed with the ice house tip, police asked staff at Wold’s about ice houses. A quick look around the lot showed an ice house valued at $30,000 was missing from the lot. The brand name, remember this, was “Big Bite.” Hoping to take a big bite out of crime, police waited for more information.

Had to be a frame up!

It didn’t take long. Another tip call came in. This time the caller identified himself as Daniel Kaufman. His purpose in calling was to help—and to keep himself in the clear. Between calls, police had stacked up a few clues. One was a piece of surveillance camera footage from that business where fresh foot prints and tire tracks were found the night of the fire. In the video, a white Dodge pickup had been parked for about 20 minutes the night of the fire.

Turns out, a white Dodge pickup truck was put up for sale the day after the arson. The post was on Facebook—and made by one Daniel Kaufman. Asked about this, Kaufman quickly asked if the video showed the face of the truck’s driver. After all, he, Kaufman, just happened to be in Detroit Lakes that day, doing some fishing with a mysterious guy named “Bill.” Yeah, you know, Bill borrowed the truck for about 20 minutes that night. Had to be a frame-up!

High-tech crime busting

No modern-day police investigation would be complete without some high-tech work, would it? Police got their hands on Kaufman’s cell phone. Among the searches that Kaufman had evidently done using his phone were these: “How to make a fake car title.” “How to report an anonymous tip.” “Locating hidden GPS trackers.” “How to get a title for a camper.” And one of our favorites, “MN Big Bite for Sale.” All those searches had a bite of their own.

In case you decide to take up a life of crime, here are a few other helpful tips. Don’t use your cell phone to carry out text messages like some of Kaufman’s. In one message, he offered to sell a Big Bite Fish House for $15,000. Nooo, he didn’t have a title for it, but he’d work on getting one. Capping this off, images on Kaufman’s phone showed the inside and outside of the filched fish house.

As for the fish house itself? Police later found it, parked behind a hotel in Park Rapids, about 40 miles east of where it went missing. Police also found a couple of keys in the center console of Kauffman’s pickup truck. Interestingly, they fit a lock that had been put on the missing fish house. It wasn’t exactly Cinderella’s slipper, but close enough.

Oh, yeah. As to Kaufman’s question about did his face show up on that surveillance cam video? Yep, it sure did. Not at the nearby business but, rather, at a Walmart store “down the road” from Detroit Lakes. The convicted Wold’s RV arsonist is clearly seen getting out of, and back into, the truck. Not real convincing in itself, but add this to it. Hitched on the back of Kaufman’s pickup truck—a Big Bite Fish House.

Not much jail time—but a lot of payments

Had Kaufman not pled guilty, we suspect a jury would have been back in court in a hurry. But plead guilty he did, and late last month, a Becker County District Court judge rolled out Kaufman’s sentence. The charges were second degree felony arson and felony theft. He was sentenced to 23 months in prison, but was stayed for 10 years. Instead, he’ll see 180 days jail time.

In addition to the six months of cell time, he’ll also need to pay a fine of $1,000 and court fees totaling $1,150. But the numbers aren’t over. He’ll also need to pay back the insurance companies involved. $910,617 to West Bend Mutual, and $85,000 to American Family. Wold’s RV is also out money, and Kaufman owes the outfit $173,054.

So how will Daniel Kaufman pay? He’s currently living on a disability check of less than $1,200 a month. That will soon be reduced by $500 when his dependent son comes of age. “Despite this, the court does believe the defendant would be able to pay some amount of the judgment ordered,” District Judge Jay Carlson wrote in his sentencing order. Kaufman will need to pay $100 per month toward restitution until his probation ends. He’s not off the hook then—anything not paid by then will roll over into a civil judgment in favor of the RV outfit and insurance companies.

Forgive us. Daniel Martin Kaufman—another “Einstein of Crime.”




Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña went from childhood tent camping to RVing in the 1980s when the ground got too hard. They've been tutored in the ways of RVing (and RV repair) by a series of rigs, from truck campers, to a fifth-wheel, and several travel trailers. In addition to writing scores of articles on RVing topics, they've also taught college classes for folks new to RVing. They authored the book, RV Boondocking Basics.



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MrDisaster (@guest_178226)
1 year ago

Arson is a tough crime to prove. He did plead to a lesser crime of 2nd degree arson. Still a felony. 10 years probation and 180 days in jail is rather light. Remember the guy only receuves $500 per month after the dependent is removed. The guy would be smart to violate his parole and spend the rest of his sentence in the “graybar hotel”. His disability payments will probably be stopped while he is serving his time. So he will be homeless after his release. He will revert to his life of crime and back before a judge by the end of 2022.

captain gort (@guest_178164)
1 year ago

White trash

Bob M (@guest_178160)
1 year ago

Our judges give criminals light sentences. They want to take guns off law abiding citizens, but drop attempted murder charges off criminals who commit crimes with guns. Was on a credit union board and the CEO stole $1.2 million between money and insurance fraud. Judge gave him 5 years, but they let him out of jail early because of covid. Who says crime don’t pay.

MattD (@guest_178152)
1 year ago

If this guy was able to do all this, he certainly isn’t “disabled”. And the judge’s sentence? shameful…

Candelario Medina (@guest_178150)
1 year ago

180 days? $100 per month? {bleeped}! What fool said crime doesn’t pay?

Bruce (@guest_178119)
1 year ago

Agree the judge should be in some other line of work. Where I worked in the past an accounting clerk managed to embezzle around $800k over a five year period. No jail time, restitution was $200 a month. That’s pretty good for her considering she redid their has an upped the value, nice trips, new car. Few years later another company called our controller and asked how she did that, obviously was at it again. Making crime pay

Spike (@guest_178116)
1 year ago

I cannot even comment fully on what I think of this judge’s despicable light sentence. We’re talking very serious felonies…one of which could have injured or killed responding fire fighters or spread and done even more damage.

Alas, being a lifetime Minnesota resident, I’m not the least bit shocked by this slap on the wrist. But I suppose the honorable judge could have sentenced him to a lifetime of fishing winters from his stolen ice house and ordering a boat dealer to provide a new boat for summer fishing, as community service, by having him donate his catch to a local food bank…with no possibility of parole! 😉 🙂

TIM MCRAE (@guest_178107)
1 year ago

The judge needs to be cained.

Lets give him a trophy for being the best fire starting oxygen thief of the year as well.

Perhaps if we reward him he won’t do it again, and by this example we will deter the next poor victim from rebelling against oppression.


If he is the best custodian for his child then the child will be better off with a foster family who might correct the damage that has clearly already been done.

Forget the restitution! What a joke.

We need to go back to labor camps.

Penalty: At least 4 years hard labor. Prison officials can review his abilities and ensure he is punished.

Bob p (@guest_178078)
1 year ago

It must’ve been a liberal judge to give him that light of a sentence. As anybody whose ever experienced a lawsuit knows, when it’s turned over to a civil case and he gets sued, winning a judgement is easy, collecting it is hard. The judge should’ve taken the $500 child support that he’s going to realize and apply that to the restitution. Also his disability should be investigated to ensure he’s not cheating on that.

Larry Lee (@guest_178057)
1 year ago

Why not include a percentage of any earned income in addition to the $100 per month from his disability check just in case he manages to GET A JOB? I mean, he was able to research online, start a fire, hitch up the trailer and drive it away. Really, $100 per month will take about 1000 years to pay the debt. How about probation for the rest of his life or until he pays the debt off, whichever comes first?

Dave (@guest_178050)
1 year ago

He got off too easy.

Seann Fox (@guest_178048)
1 year ago

Every time he misses a payment he should be cained

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