PHOENIX (CN) - Sheriff Joe Arpaio's deputies raided two restaurants in violation of a federal court order prohibiting Arpaio from enforcing immigration laws, and indicted the restaurant chain's owner and manager on false charges, the two claim in court.
Bret Frimmel, the owner of Uncle Sam's restaurants, and manager Lisa Norton filed separate lawsuits against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and a number of his detectives and employees, on Jan. 19 in Federal Court.
Frimmel et al. claim Arpaio's office raided two Uncle Sam's restaurants to investigate the alleged employment of undocumented immigrants despite a federal injunction prohibiting Arpaio's office from enforcing immigration laws.
"MCSO has openly demonstrated contempt for this federal court order, calling it 'ludicrous' and 'absurd,' and referring to the order itself as 'crap,'" the complaint states.
The three search warrants used for the raids were based on false and incomplete affidavits with information supplied by a former Uncle Sam's employee and her husband, who had the motivation to fabricate lies about Frimmel and Norton, the plaintiffs claim, including that the husband was arrested and convicted of theft from Uncle Sam's.
During the raids, the Sheriff's Office arrested nine employees and charged four with identity theft, the lawsuits state.
Within days of the raids, Frimmel says, the U.S. Department of Justice contacted him to see if he would cooperate with its investigation of racial profiling committed by Arpaio and his office.
After learning of Frimmel's contact with the Department of Justice, the Sheriff's Office arrested him and Norton, the plaintiffs say.
"MCSO charged Mr. Frimmel, in regard to four specific former Uncle Sam's employees, with: (a) knowingly taking the identity of another; (b) knowingly trafficking in the identity of another; (c) forgery; and (d) conspiracy to commit taking the identity of another," Frimmel's lawsuit states.
Norton was charged with knowingly taking the identity of another and conspiracy to commit taking the identity of another.
"In the course of its investigation, MCSO and individual defendants made false and misleading statements in both search warrant affidavits and probable cause statements and gave materially false and misleading testimony to the grand jury that indicted Mr. Frimmel and Mrs. Norton," Frimmel's complaint states.
Frimmel and Norton claim that Arpaio's office failed to find evidence that either of them had the knowledge element of the charges.
They claim that Arpaio "engaged in a media campaign in which he knowingly and/or recklessly defamed Mr. Frimmel and Mrs. Norton with false allegations of illegal activity."
"These defamatory false statements included, among other things, false statements that Mr. Frimmel and Mrs. Norton: (a) committed criminal offenses; (b) knowingly hired undocumented workers; (c) assisted undocumented workers in obtaining false documents; and (d) intentionally solicited Unauthorized Aliens to work at Uncle Sam's," the plaintiffs claim.
All charges against Norton were dismissed on Jan. 16.
A federal judge this month barred Arpaio from ordering workplace raids to arrest undocumented immigrants using stolen identities to work under two Arizona identity theft laws.
The plaintiffs seek punitive damages for wrongful arrest, wrongful prosecution, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
They are represented by Leon Silver and Andrew Jacob of Gordon & Rees.