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Federal agent from Mesa ordered to pay $133K after caught using gov't car to drive for Lyft, Uber

Sean Nelson of Mesa had been a special agent for the Department of Homeland Security before he got caught driving his government vehicle for unauthorized uses.

MESA, Ariz. — A former Homeland Security agent from Arizona has been ordered to pay the federal government money he earned while using his work vehicle to drive for Uber and Lyft.

Sean M. Nelson, 44, of Mesa was sentenced last week to two years of federal probation after pleading guilty to theft of government property, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office of Arizona. 

Between 2019 and 2021, Nelson used his government-owned vehicle to work for private companies while he was still on duty for Homeland Security. The agent would drive for Amazon, Lyft, and Uber at times when he should have been working for the government, prosecutors said. 

As a result, Nelson has been ordered to pay about $134,000 in restitution, which was much of the salary he earned while utilizing government property for unauthorized uses.

Nelson has also resigned from the federal agency.

“His dereliction of duty was a grave disservice to his hard-working law enforcement colleagues and the taxpayers alike,” said United States Attorney Gary Restaino.


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What is the Valley?

“The Valley” is what locals call the Phoenix Metropolitan Area. It is considered the largest metropolitan area in the Southwest. 

The Valley is made up of various major cities other than Phoenix, including:

  • Mesa
  • Chandler
  • Scottsdale
  • Tempe
  • Glendale
  • Surprise
  • Peoria
  • Gilbert
  • El Mirage
  • Avondale
  • Litchfield Park
  • Goodyear
  • Buckeye

Whether a city is in the “East Valley” or “West Valley” depends on where it is in relation to Phoenix.

The cities of the Valley have a combined population of 4,845,832 people, according to the 2020 United States Census. This makes it the 11th largest metropolitan area in the country right behind the Boston and Atlanta areas.

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Maricopa County is the United States’ 4th largest county in terms of population with 4,485,414 people, according to the 2020 Census.

The county contains around 63% of Arizona’s population and is 9,224 square miles. That makes the county larger than seven U.S. states (Rhode Island, Delaware, Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey, Massachusetts and New Hampshire).

One of the largest park systems in the nation is also located in Maricopa County. The county has an estimated 120,000 acres of open space parks that includes hundreds of miles of trails, nature centers and campgrounds.

The county’s seat is located in Phoenix, which is also the state capital and the census-designated 5th most populous city in the United States.

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