Sheriff Joe's Real Estate Game

Arpaio's invested $690,000 in cash in two commercial properties since 1995. Some other investment records are sealed.

How's this for a get-rich scheme?

You get elected to public office, say, sheriff.

You start scowling like John Wayne and jam the jails full. You put the cons in stripes and house them in surplus Army tents, where four guards oversee 1,800 inmates.

Microphone man: Arpaio in a familiar pose.
Jackie Mercandetti
Microphone man: Arpaio in a familiar pose.
Ka-ching: You can even buy a Joe bobblehead doll.
Claudia Ward
Ka-ching: You can even buy a Joe bobblehead doll.

Your detention officers beat up prisoners, while feeding them food unfit for a dog. A paranoid public afraid of crime is grateful because it naively believes your abusive policies will scare people from committing that next robbery and shooting.

Who cares if this is all baloney?

You drum up a few death threats along the way, because that generates free publicity chronicling what a bad-ass you are.

Who cares if innocent people go to jail?

The voters love it. Even as your office is besieged by tens of millions of dollars in lawsuits stemming from beatings and deaths in your Mother of All Dungeons.

The dead guys were druggies anyway, your public relations machine claims. And, hey, that's what the county's insurance policy is for -- settling claims of distraught survivors.

What matters most is that your image as "toughest sheriff in America" has made you into a valuable commodity.

And that image is worth a lot.

Now you're making bank. Giving speeches. Writing books. Selling movie rights. Getting free trips to posh resorts scattered across the country. Hawking novelties like bobblehead dolls, and pink underwear that you autograph personally.


Suddenly, a lot of money starts rolling through the sheriff's office doors. Bags full of cash land on your chief deputy's desk. No one's keeping track.

Any time county auditors come over snooping inside your operation, you chase them off and refuse to provide access to the books. No one's going to get an unfettered look at the financial operations of your $140 million-a-year empire as long as you're in charge.

Everything I have written so far about Arpaio's 12-year run as the Maricopa County sheriff has been documented in countless stories in this newspaper.

Which is why I'm very interested in old man Joe's extensive real estate holdings. Especially after I discovered he's got $690,000 in cold, hard cash invested in two small commercial properties in Scottsdale and Fountain Hills.

The total amount of cash slippery Joe has stashed into at least six other real estate investments may be much more than this. How much more, I don't know. That's because the 72-year-old has taken unusual steps to make sure the public can't find out the amount of cash he's stashed into Maricopa County real estate.

Rather than disclosing details of his real estate investments -- as the rest of us who might dabble in dirt must do -- Arpaio got his records purged from the Maricopa County Recorder's Office. The redacted records include such key information as deeds, mortgages, affidavits of value and conveyances of title.

Everything needed to determine if a deal is done fair and square.

You know, like what's the sales price? Is there a mortgage? What are the terms? The county keeps such records for a reason: It's hoped that full disclosure will keep the marketplace honest.

All of these records are normally available for public inspection. But not Arpaio's.

And neither are the real estate records for his top deputy, the twice-bankrupt, double-dipping David Hendershott, paid a $131,189 salary plus another $51,000 in annual pension money (he retired from the sheriff's office and was rehired as chief deputy by Arpaio). Hendershott enjoys his evenings in an upscale neighborhood of $400,000 homes in Peoria. How much did Hendershott pay for his nice pad at 24232 North 80th Lane? Did he pay cash? Can't tell, because Hendershott's real estate records also are sealed.

Arpaio says he's taking advantage of a law that allows cops, judges, prosecutors and public defenders to petition the Maricopa County Superior Court to issue an order that keeps their home addresses and telephone numbers out of records filed with county offices, including those of the recorder, treasurer and assessor.

Arpaio obtained such an order in July 2001. But rather than simply blocking out his home address on real estate records, all of the information has been removed, making it impossible to determine details of Arpaio's commercial and residential real estate holdings.

The sheriff says he got the records zapped because he was fearful that someone might be crouched behind the bushes near his home. "It's because of all the death threats," Arpaio told me in an interview last month inside the county jail. He later admitted that he was never "in that much danger" from any of the threats.

Why? We all know that the death threats are more grist for his publicity mill rather than any serious attempt on Joe's head. And now we know that the flimsy, and sometimes fabricated, death threats ("In the Crosshairs," June 24) are used as a convenient excuse to have Arpaio's real estate investments sealed from public inspection.

The county recorder's redaction clerks, however, missed a few of Arpaio's property records, which I'm happy to report I found.

These records raise a number of serious questions, especially since this is a guy who is making $78,000 a year as sheriff along with his federal Drug Enforcement Agency civil service retirement pay of about $65,000. His wife operates a small travel agency, Star World Travel, that doesn't appear to be much of a cash cow.

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Nice post..thanks,When the pensioned employee retires, she or he can ask for the entire pension in one lump sum or can take the pension as an annuity, which is aseries of payments that lasts for a specified period of time. If the retiree lives long enough, she or he will receive more money than the employer originally withheld.

Hedy Trevino
Hedy Trevino

I want to thank the phx new times for their hard work and relentless effort's to expose the truth. i have always been a big fan of this paper. long before SB 1070 became a 'public issue' this paper was on the job alerting us all that trouble was brewing. thank you for all do. thank you for never backing down. thank you for your integrity in reporting. Hedy Trevino


I just cannot wait to see this bastard end up in federal jail. If he has nothing to hide about his finances then he needs to be open about it. What is he scared of if he did nothing wrong? And its not really the amount of money, its the way it is being moved around and being purposefully hidden from the eyes of the public. This man is in a position that has a very large chance of corruption, therefore, he needs to be as open about his dealings as possible. He is a civil servant, and as an upstanding law-abiding citizen myself I want to make sure that the people doling out justice are actually doing their job, as opposed to some personal vendetta.


I love this article. Sheriff Joe needs to go. Hes an egotistical maniac and although I agree with him some on inmate treatment, I think he is only out for himself as your article so excellently depics!

Time for there to be a new Sheriff in town. Feel free to email me anytime if it pertains to removing the "Lamest Sheriff in America".

The people voting him into office are the half dead scared people called the Blue Hair Community!

People believe the hype and dont even realize what a con artist Arpaio really is. Unfortunately he will be dead by the time hes out of office and a full investigation is launched. At 72 your days are numbered!

Teresa McDonough
Teresa McDonough

I am so sick of every one flapping their lipping their lips and only hot air coming out. Did you ever stop to THINK, about INVESTMENT. HUM, do you know that word. Uncle Joe wasn't always a Sheriff for Maricopia County. He has Retired once already. But I will not disclose that information to you or anyone else cause it ain't your business. About the propertys, well have you ever heard of the word PROFIT? Well the mean of this word is to make money. So let's look at this, make money from PROFIT sell building get PROFIT,INVEST into other Property. Anyone can see where I'm going with this. My Father use to work construction and he invested his money and he own a Resturant, 2 houses,and a apartment building and was one of the wealthes man in my home town. He quit school when he was 13. I think was it comes down to is that you have a thorne stuck sideways where the sun don't shine and you wish that you could be Like MY UNCLE JOE. As far as Ava, You just leave her out it, SHE is A FINE, KIND HEARTED,WOMAN,UPSTANDING,WOULD NEVER HURT ANYONE. I saw the parade on TV and it look like to me that every one was happy to SEE Sheriff Joe & Ava Arprio. Cheer's after Cheer's so what's up with that. In closeing I only have to say I just see people that are jealouse who don't know how to INVEST their MONEY,Don't like the way UNCLE JOE is a fine and upstanding Lawman sticks to his guns and don't take no crap from ANYONE, and you are probably one who has been locked up by him. Just like to spread rumors and lies around to make your self look good. But in the eyes of GOD you are ugly and you will have to make up for all this before you are allow in the gates of heaven. You or noone else has the right to know Uncle Joe or Aunt Ava personal address or even know about their persaonal life and what and how the spend their money. What do you follow them around day and night. Your kind of people are sick. DON"T YOU HAVE A LIFE?? GET ONE!!

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