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Man pleads guilty to stealing, selling Coast Guard medal

A Duluth man pleaded guilty to two felony theft crimes Tuesday and admitted that he stole a Coast Guard Gold Lifesaving medal from the man who earned it and sold it to the Gold Guys for $1,950.

Theft victim Paul Halverson
Paul Halverson holds the box that his Coast Guard Gold Lifesaving medal came in after the medal was stolen and melted down. Nathan Thomas Ostrom of Duluth pleaded guilty to the theft July 9, 2013. (2013 file / News Tribune)

A Duluth man pleaded guilty to two felony theft crimes Tuesday and admitted that he stole a Coast Guard Gold Lifesaving medal from the man who earned it and sold it to the Gold Guys for $1,950.

Nathan Thomas Ostrom, 35, pleaded guilty to one count of the felony theft of firearms and one count of felony theft. Judge Shaun Floerke directed an Arrowhead Regional Corrections probation officer to investigate Ostrom's background before sentencing on Aug. 12.

Paul Halverson, 66, of Duluth was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, among other military honors, for his bravery while serving two tours in Vietnam from 1966-69, but he said the Coast Guard's Gold Lifesaving medal that Ostrom stole from his Hunters Park home is the precious medal that means the most to him.

St. Louis County prosecutor Jessica Smith said after the hearing that the theft of Halverson's lifesaving medal is "the piece of all of this that is most concerning and disturbing. Of course, the medal is priceless," she said.

Halverson was happy to hear that Ostrom pleaded guilty, but unhappy that the defendant most likely will receive a probationary sentence.

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"He should be locked up for the maximum of whatever the charges are against him," Halverson said. "He does not belong on the street. He's nothing but a criminal."

Halverson said he initially befriended Ostrom, who rented a room from him. He loaned him $2,000 without being paid back. The case went to conciliation court. According to court records, Ostrom was ordered by a judge to pay back Halverson the $2,000 in 10 monthly installments starting June 1. Halverson said he has not received any of the money. On Monday he filed an affidavit of noncompliance.

In 1975, Halverson was awarded the Coast Guard medal for diving 40 feet from the ore carrier William P. Snyder Jr. into the frigid waters of Lake St. Claire, near Detroit, to rescue a young woman who survived a small-plane crash and was floating unconscious among the debris.

At the time, Halverson was a wheelsman on the ore boat working for Cleveland Cliffs. The medal he received was circular, adorned with an eagle and made from 24-karat yellow gold and inscribed with his name.

Ostrom was accused of stealing the medal, three firearms and other household property from his landlord. Neither the defendant nor his attorney could be reached for comment Tuesday.

The stolen property included a 24-karat white gold ring with a blue star sapphire stone that Halverson purchased when he was in Vietnam, a Mauser 30-06 rifle with scope and two shotguns as well as an air nail gun, leaf blower and video camcorder that Ostrom allegedly pawned at Pawn America and Lincoln Park Pawn, according to the complaint. Duluth police have recovered the firearms.

Related Topics: CRIME
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