Note: hear it gonna get worse
3 in Sheriff's Office accused of drug, human smuggling
by JJ Hensley and Michelle Ye Hee Lee - May. 24, 2011 04:18 PM
The Arizona Republic
Three Maricopa County Sheriff's employees and seven others were
arrested Tuesday and accused of being part of a syndicate that was
smuggling heroin and people from Mexico into the United States.
One of the employees, Deputy Alfredo Navarrette, a 10-year veteran of
the department, is also suspected of smuggling undocumented
immigrants. Authorities found two suspected illegal immigrants at his
house, Sheriff Joe Arpaio said.
Authorities said Navarrette, 37, was smuggling illegal border-
crossers to California.
"It's despicable," Arpaio said at a Tuesday afternoon press conference.
Two sheriff's detention officers, Sylvia Najera, 25, and Marcella
Hernandez, 27, were arrested Tuesday along with a Phoenix
construction company owner on suspicion of money laundering related
to the drug-trafficking network. Investigators claim that Hernandez
is romantically linked with the leader of the drug-smuggling
operation, identified as Lorenzo Arce-Torres, and is eight months'
pregnant with his child.
All three sheriff's employees were trained by federal Immigration and
Customs Enforcement agents.
The sheriff's drug-crimes unit conducted a yearlong investigation
into Navarrette and the other suspects after allegations of
corruption that date back to September 2000 surfaced, according to
Arpaio. The sheriff said they suspected Navarette since May 2010 but
didn't have enough evidence to act on.
The sheriff's investigation, coordinated with a multi-agency drug
task force, led detectives to believe that Hernandez operated a pair
of stash houses and orchestrated the movement of heroin in the
Valley, authorities allege. Ten pounds of the drug was seized in the
investigation, officials say.
The Sheriff's Office said more law-enforcement officers may be
implicated; the investigation is ongoing
Earlier Tuesday, Maricopa County Sheriff's deputies served search
warrants throughout the county, initiating a series of arrests. A
large number of police vehicles were at a house near 67th Avenue and
Van Buren Street.
Sheriff's officers caught in smuggling probe by KTAR Newsroom (May
24th, 2011 @ 4:21pm) Policy >> Comments:76
PHOENIX - Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said Tuesday morning's
drug busts were the results of an investigation of three MCSO
employees who were booked on several felonies, Arpaio said in a press
Former Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery and Interim Maricopa
County Attorney Rick Romley helped Arpaio with the investigation,
which was keyed up in the last few months as more information was
Arpaio initially received a tip that Alfredo Navarrette, an
immigration customs deputy sheriff trained by Immigrations and
Customs Enforcement, had been involved in a human and drug smuggling
operation as early as 2000.
When serving search warrants across the Valley Tuesday, Navarrette's
home was found to contain illegal immigrants. He has been charged
with human smuggling. Arpaio later said that Navarrette was
transporting aliens to California and passing on MCSO information to
The other two officers involved, Sylvia Najera and Marcella
Hernandez, are detention officers who both worked at the Lower
Buckeye Jail and were trained by ICE. It is believed the two women
knew each other, Arpaio said.
"Today's arrest brings it closer to home," Arpaio said. "I've been
fighting drug and human smuggling for as long as I've been sheriff."
Hernandez is eight months pregnant with the child of the leader of
the trafficking organization, Arpaio said.
"No one's above the law and apparently no one is beyond the reach of
drug operations in Mexico," Montgomery said.
Navarrette was suspended for unrelated reasons prior to his arrest.
Seven other non-MCSO personnel were arrested during the execution of
the search warrants. All were involved with the human and drug
Despite today's arrests, Arpaio made it clear the investigation is
"We're not done with the investigation," Arpaio said. "We're still
looking at other officers who could be involved."