It’s a cautionary tale for collectors who can’t get enough cards and are racking up big bills to feed their habit. An addition to baseball cards recently led to a former homeland security agent losing his job, paying six-figures in restitution and two years of federal court-ordered probation.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Phoenix, AZ reports that former Homeland Security special agent Sean M. Nelson, 44, of Mesa, pleaded guilty to using his government provided car to earn money to support his cardboard habit.
Nelson was also ordered to pay nearly $134,000 in restitution to the Department of Homeland Security. After pleading guilty last October and resigning his position, Nelson was sentenced last week.
Prosecutors say that Between November 2019 and October 2021, Nelson was working for Uber, Lyft and Amazon while he was supposed to be on duty for Homeland Security Investigations. They say he used his government owned vehicle while making deliveries for those companies.
Nelson’s actions “resulted in tens of thousands of dollars in losses to the government,” according to a news release.
Nelson admitted he was using the extra money he earned while delivering to pay for a sports card habit he couldn’t quit.
Several former colleagues, friends and his mother wrote letters of support for Nelson prior to his sentencing, urging the judge to consider probation rather than prison time. Another chronicled Nelson’s difficulties in handling addiction, blaming some of it on his having been required to watch child pornography as part of his job as an investigator.
“Nelson also discussed how he started buying large amounts of items of eBay, and at one point even asked me to send them to my house for approximately 6 months, until I told him I couldn’t have an overflowing mailbox anymore,” one friend wrote. “…Nelson also told me that he just kept spending more and more, and enough was never enough, and that he was afraid of financial consequences at home.”
Nelson’s mother also urged probation for the father of four, recalling his childhood interest in cards that continued into adulthood. “No one knew the hobby of collecting would turn into an addition,” she wrote.
“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,” stated United States Attorney Gary Restaino. “His dereliction of duty was a grave disservice to his hard-working law enforcement colleagues and the taxpayers alike.”