Shocking news from Maricopa County’s Sheriff Joe’s office: Three employees arrested for drug and human smuggling

Posted on May 24, 2011

Joe Arpaio

Image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Near earth-shattering news out of the Sheriff’s office known for its immigration sweeps and workplace raids.  Troubling to think this could have been going on since 2000 without the Sheriff’s knowledge:

PHOENIX – Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said Tuesday morning’s drug busts were the results of a year-long investigation of three MCSO employees who were booked on several felonies, Arpaio said in a press conference.


Arpaio initially received a tip that Alfredo Navarrette, an immigration customs deputy sheriff trained by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, had been involved in an international human and drug smuggling operation as early as 2000.

When serving search warrants across the Valley Tuesday, two illegal immigrants were found inside Navarrette’s West Valley home. He has been charged with human smuggling. Navarrette was later revealed to have served on the sheriff’s anti-smuggling unit.

Arpaio later said that Navarrette was transporting aliens to California and passing on MCSO information to drug traffickers, endangering the lives of countless officers. Navarette also laundered thousands of dollars in drug money, put surveillance cameras up at stash houses and registered several vehicles used for drug running under his name.

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.


Hernandez and Najera were both designated 287(g) by ICE, meaning they underwent special training that allowed them to work in partnership with ICE on immigration enforcement, said Vincent Picard of ICE Public Affairs in an email.

Hernandez is eight months pregnant with the child of Lorenzo Torres, the drug kingpin and member of the Sinaloa cartel. Torres’ family specializes in heroin production.

“No one’s above the law and apparently no one is beyond the reach of drug operations in Mexico,” Montgomery said.

This looks bad.  If Navarrette has been involved in drug and human smuggling right under Sheriff Joe’s nose for the last DECADE without him knowing about it, it’s certainly a big Debbie downer on just how clued in the sheriff is to his own employees’ activities.  I mean..10 years, not 10 weeks or even 10 months, but 10 YEARS of this illegal activity.   Add to that the fact that one of the detention officers IS PREGNANT with a drug kingpin’s child and we’re talking almost impossible to believe this has been happening inside the America’s Toughest Sheriff’s domain.

Of course, the alternative is worse.  The possibility that Sheriff Joe might have known about it and done nothing is explosive to the point of possibly being criminal.

I have to say that with the revelations about the Sheriff’s office misspending $100 million and the news of his office ignoring reported sex crimes, my enthusiasm for the sheriff has definitely taken some major hits.

Posted in: Arizona