Photo: Sheriff Joe Arpaio
“America’s Toughest Sheriff” has said three of his employees in Maricopa County in Arizona have been arrested for drug and human trafficking.
A deputy and two detention officers were among 12 people arrested in an international drug smuggling ring based out of Phoenix, said Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who added that law enforcement in hard enough without having to worry about his own people.
“We have enough violence without having moles in my own organization that put my deputies in danger,” said Arpaio.
Marcella Hernandez, 28, one of the detention officers, informed authorities that she is eight months pregnant with the child of a documented member of Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, Francisco Arce-Torres, who is also said to be the leader of the suspected drug ring.
Deputy Ruben Navarette Hernandez and other detention officer Sylvia Najera face felony charges, with seven more of the sheriff’s employees being investigated for connection to the operation.
“Every organization, you’re going to find some people who do wrong,” Arpaio said. “It’s human nature.”
Arpaio said that Navarette admitted he passed information regarding the sheriff’s crime-prevention operation to the smuggling group. Navarette is also accused of participating in the smuggling of undocumented immigrants from Arizona to California. Upon searching his home, two undocumented immigrants were discovered.
Navarette, who once worked on the sheriff’s human smuggling unit and was trained as a federal immigration agent, Arpaio said, was regularly participating in the smuggling of undocumented immigrants.
“No one is above the law, and apparently no one is beyond the reach of drug trafficking organizations in Mexico,” County Attorney Bill Montgomery said. “It’s just one more illustration ... that the border is not secure. We have cross national transportation of drugs and illegal aliens that has now involved law enforcement officials here. And they’ve been able to do this and be ongoing in their efforts.”