PHOENIX (CN) – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement shouldn’t have used employment records obtained in illegal raids as evidence in an investigation, the Ninth Circuit ruled Thursday.
In 2013, under the supervision of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, deputies with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office raided two Uncle Sam’s restaurants in the Phoenix area to investigate reports that they employed undocumented immigrants. The sheriff’s office also raided restaurant owner Bret Frimmel’s home.
Blasting the department’s actions, U.S. Circuit Judge Dorothy Nelson claimed it “omitted significant and material information and distorted facts in the [search warrant] affidavits.”
“MCSO also materially falsified another affidavit to support another warrant for the arrest of Bret Frimmel and the co-owner of Frimmel Management, suggesting that MCSO repeatedly engages in egregious Fourth Amendment violations,” Nelson wrote for the three-judge panel.
After the illegal raids, ICE began investigating Frimmel for compliance with employment verification laws, conducting an audit after it received press releases about the raids from the sheriff’s office as well as an employee shift summary.
Frimmel’s company Frimmel Management asked an administrative law judge to suppress the evidence found by ICE as a result of the audit.
The judge denied Frimmel’s request, finding the evidence discovered by ICE in the course of its audit was only thinly connected to the unlawful raids performed by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.
The Ninth Circuit disagreed.
“After MCSO conducted the illegal raid, MCSO emailed the shift summary to ICE the next day and issued press releases the day of the raid and the day after,” wrote Nelson in a 22-page opinion. “As a result of the raids, ICE initiated its investigation three weeks and two days after.”
Nelson cited the sheriff’s department’s email to ICE as the linchpin in the panel’s ruling.
“The record nonetheless shows that the MCSO had a policy of sharing information with ICE, and the only reasonable inference is that MCSO shared this information for the purpose of spurring ICE enforcement action,” she wrote.
Nelson also took aim at the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office for violating Frimmel’s Fourth Amendment rights by acting on search warrants based on “reckless” affidavits.
The information for the deputies’ search warrants came from the wife of an employee arrested for stealing, and from another complainant previously arrested for stealing from the company.
“Given that nothing corroborated the anonymous tips—and MCSO actually withheld information that undermined the credibility of those tips—the inaccuracies in the affidavits were material,” Nelson wrote.
U.S. Circuit Judges William Fletcher and Raymond Fisher also sat on the panel.
Frimmel and restaurant manager Lisa Norton were arrested on identity theft-related charges, but both cases were later dismissed.
In 2015, Frimmel sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and ICE over the raids.
Frimmel is represented by Andrew Jacob of Gorden Rees. Jacob was not immediately available for comment.