A federal agent was slapped with probation after admitting he used his government-issued vehicle to make deliveries for Amazon and to pick up Uber and Lyft passengers, all while on duty with the Department of Homeland Security.
Sean M. Nelson, 44, also agreed to give up his job at Homeland Security Investigations and to pay back $133,999 in wages he bilked the government.
He started driving for other companies in 2019, delivering packages and picking up riders all while in his government vehicle. He also filled up the tank for his drives at government expense.
Nelson also filled out bogus timecards, lying about his time on duty to cover up his driving.
“As a result of the conviction, Mr. Nelson has forfeited much of his salary during the time period of his on-the-job criminal activity, and as a federal felon he’ll never lawfully possess or use a firearm ever again,” said Gary Restaino, the U.S. attorney in Arizona. “His dereliction of duty was a grave disservice to his hard-working law enforcement colleagues and the taxpayers alike.”
According to documents his lawyer submitted to the court, Nelson had an “addiction” to buying baseball cards and took other jobs to pay for the habit.
Authorities calculated that Nelson stole $11,665 in vehicle costs, and stole another $42,892 in salary he collected for the time he was actually working for the delivery and ride-share companies.
That also meant he didn’t complete the mandatory 40-hour work weeks that entitled him to what’s known as Law Enforcement Availability Pay, or LEAP. He earned nearly $80,000 in LEAP in 2019, 2020 and 2021 which he must forfeit.
Homeland Security Investigations agents are the criminal investigators or detectives at ICE. They probe everything from gang activity to sex trafficking to counterfeiting to migrant smuggling.
Before joining HSI, Nelson was in the Air Force and served in Iraq in 2008, then worked at state and federal prisons and as an air marshal.
“No one knew the hobby of collecting would turn into an addiction,” his mother, Linda Nelson, wrote in pleading for leniency from the judge. “He is willing to pay the fine & has the support of all of his family. He has already lost his job & his pension. He has gotten another job & his wife is working too. Please do not punish him anymore.”
The judge sentenced Nelson last week to two years’ probation.