Transparency & accountability

3 Arizona Employees Under Sheriff Arpaio Arrested on Human and Drug Smuggling Charges

05/25/11 – Three Arizona officers who work for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio were arrested this week after their involvement in human and drug trafficking rings were exposed. Deputy Alfredo Navarrette and detention officers Marcella Hernández and Sylvia Nájera were apprehended Tuesday, along with 9 others, in an operation that began last year after Arpaio’s office received an anonymous tip. Their involvement in criminal activity is being traced to connections with the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico, of which Arpaio stated, “No one’s above the law, and apparently no one is beyond the reach of drug-trafficking organizations in Mexico.”

Navarrette, who worked under Arpaio in a unit targeting human trafficking for almost ten years, is facing charges of operating a human smuggling ring, drug trafficking, and money laundering. He also allegedly assisted in “feeding a drug ring confidential police information,” reports ABC News. Navarrette was arrested in his home where police also found two illegal immigrants and large amounts of heroin worth almost $200,000.  Marcella Hernández, a prison guard in Maricopa County and pregnant with Francisco Arce-Torre’s child, was also arrested Tuesday for drug trafficking and money laundering. Arce-Torre is the “presumed leader of the Phoenix cell connected to the Sinaloa Cartel” and a large player in the heroin trafficking business, reports Proceso. Sylvia Nájero, a guard in an Arizona women’s prison, was arrested for both money laundering and her role in trafficking thousands of women from Mexico and Central America into Arizona.

The arrests have put Sheriff Arpaio, self-proclaimed as “America’s toughest sheriff,” in the spotlight. He is known for his strong anti-immigration stances and his so-called “Tent City,” the temporary jail he created to hold detained illegal immigrants in as a location outside of the traditional prison cell. In response to the arrests, Arpaio called the collaboration with human and drug traffickers “despicable,” but also acknowledged that most organizations in general have a few “bad people.”


“Agentes de Arizona traficaban indocumentados.” El Universal. May 25, 2011.

“Cártel de Sinaloa infiltra oficina del sheriff de Maricopa.” Proceso. May 25, 2011.

Goldman, Russell. “Three Arizona Cops Arrested for Human, Drug Smuggling.” ABC News. May 25, 2011.

“Sheriff’s deputy, 2 others arrested in Arizona human trafficking bust.” CNN. May 25, 2011.

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