PHOENIX (CN) – Three members of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s staff were arrested on drug and human-trafficking charges, including a detention officer who allegedly is 8 months pregnant with the child of a drug lord.
It’s the latest in a string of headlines for Maricopa County Sheriff Arpaio, who calls himself the toughest sheriff in America.
His officers, two female detention officers and a male deputy, were among 12 arrested after a nearly year-long investigation of the drug smuggling ring, the Arizona Republic reported.
Marcella Hernandez, a detention officer, told authorities she is 8 months pregnant with the child of Francisco Arce-Torres, who is believed to be the ringleader of the operation and a member of the Sinaloa cartel. Sinaloa state, whose capital is Culiacan, is a longtime center of marijuana and opium traffic, and home to a series of vicious drug lords.
Arce-Torres was arrested and charged with conspiracy, managing an organized crime syndicate, money laundering, controlling an illegal enterprise, and transporting drugs.
CNN reported that Hernandez, who was booked for transporting drugs and money laundering, allegedly allowed Torres to use two of her homes as “stash houses for narcotics and illegal drugs proceeds.” Hernandez, 27, allegedly was arrested with $20,000 cash in her purse when she arrived at work.
Sheriff’s Deputy Alfredo Navarrette, a former member of Arpaio’s human smuggling task force, admitted providing information to members of the cartel about the sheriff’s crime-prevention operations, Arpaio said at a press conference.
“We came up with the information, and we clean up our own house,” Arpaio said after the arrests. “We confirmed our concerns today when [Navarrette] admitted to going to our command center and getting information to give to the cartels.”
Navarrette, who is charged with human smuggling, money laundering, controlling an illegal enterprise and conspiracy, allegedly placed security cameras around Torres’ home and offered to sell assault rifles. When authorities arrived at Navarrette’s house to arrest him, they found two illegal immigrants inside, the Republic reported.
“That a deputy sheriff would provide information and associate with these drug and human traffickers is despicable,” Arpaio said.
Detention Officer Sylvia Najera was charged with money laundering and controlling a criminal enterprise.
The group allegedly helped transport about $56,000 worth of heroin per week, according to the Arizona Republic.
After his own department was audited, Arpaio was accused in April of misspending almost $100 million over 8 years. A federal grand jury has been looking into abuse-of-power charges against Arpaio since 2009.