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Arpaio Jailer Was a Gangster, Inmate Says

PHOENIX (CN) - One of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's jailers tried to have an informant's cell door opened so members of the Mexican Mafia could beat the hell out of him, he claims in court.

Antonio Lechuga sued Maricopa County, Sheriff Arpaio and Detention Officer Kevin Holsom on Dec. 10 in Superior Court.

Lechuga claims Holsom told members of the Mexican Mafia that he was working as "an informant for Jail Intel" at Maricopa County's Fourth Avenue Jail.

Arizona media reported in January this year that detention officer Kevin Holsome, then 29, was charged with belonging to a criminal street gang. Aside from the spelling of Holsom's name, the reports resemble the allegations in Lechuga's lawsuit. This article will spell his name as in the civil complaint.

Lechuga claims that on Dec. 12, 2014, Holsom yelled so loudly that all the inmates in the jail pod could hear him say that Lechuga is a "snitch and rat."

As if that weren't enough, Lechuga says, the next day "Holsom went into the Tower and talked to Lechuga over the intercom. Holsom threatened Lechuga that he would 'fuck him up.'"

He claims that Holsom then "contacted a known Mexican Mafia member through the intercom and made arrangements to open Lechuga's cell while at the same time opening the cells of other Mexican Mafia members so that they could physically attack Lechuga."

Lechuga claims that Holsom then opened his cell door himself, but another jailer closed it before the Mexican Mafia could get to him.

The Mexican Mafia is a violent prison gang that is believed to control heroin trafficking in areas of major cities from inside prisons.

Lechuga says he told Jail Intel on Nov. 26, 2014 that inmates screamed insults at him as a "snitch," but he did not learn until Jan. 15 this year "that Holsom discussed with a Mexican Mafia leader and/or members Lechuga's 'status' before Lechuga was moved into the pod he was in at the 4th Avenue Jail."

Lechuga says he did not learn that Holsom had ratted him out this way until Holsom was charged with gang-related offenses in January. Holsom has pleaded not guilty.

From the criminal complaint, Lechuga says, he "learned Holsom instigated the move of Lechuga into the pod where there was Mexican Mafia members so that Lechuga could be identified as a 'snitch.'"

The criminal complaint says that Holsom reviewed Lechuga's arrest report - which contained his home address and information about his relatives, including his mother's address, according to the civil lawsuit.

Lechuga says he agreed to be an informant after the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office agreed his identity would be kept confidential.

Maricopa County did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"The threat to Lechuga and his family continues even though Lechuga was released from jail and continues to this day," the lawsuit states. "Lechuga is living his life looking over his back at all times."

Lechuga seeks damages for assault, negligence, civil rights violations and intentional infliction of emotional distress. His attorney, Keith Knowlton, of Tempe, could not be reached for comment.

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