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Joe Arpaio "Kidnapped"? Ex-DEA Honcho Phil Jordan Cries Foul

See also: Sheriff Joe buffaloes readers with bogus yarns in his book Joe's Law See also: Arpaio denies writing, reading or agreeing with his book "JOE'S LAW" See also: Joe Arpaio's Early Christmas Gift from President Obama and the U.S. Attorney's Office See also: The Feds Proved Themselves a Cage of Cowardly Lions in the Arpaio Investigation See also: Joe Arpaio Joins Lawyer Dennis Wilenchik on the Hook for 2007 Arrests of VVM Executive Editor and CEO

I thought I'd heard every Sheriff Joe Arpaio story there was to hear, tall tales and otherwise. But there seems to be one more in the kitty.

This new bit of Joe lore is mentioned in the sheriff's latest, nauseating campaign ad, "It's time you met the real Joe Arpaio."

Like after 20 years, we don't know this carnival barker coming and going. Sheesh.

The ad relates Sheriff Joe's bio in about 30 seconds, which is all you need, if you cut out all the corruption, lies, malfeasance and criminal activity.

"As a top official with the DEA, he traveled the globe, fighting criminals and drug dealers," says the voiceover at one point. "He was shot at, even kidnapped. All while raising a family with his wife Ava of 55 years."

Um, wait, kidnapped? When exactly did that happen, I wonder?

I've read both of Arpaio's books in the past, Joe's Law and America's Toughest Sheriff, each co-written with Arpaio's slimy amanuensis Len Sherman.

The autobiographical parts of those books are the same, literally, word for word, and cover Arpaio's time in the Army, as well as his stints as a flatfoot in D.C. and Las Vegas, then as an agent with the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, which eventually became the DEA.

Both accounts are full of massive whoppers, as I detailed in a 2008 column. Arpaio claims to have helped shut down the French Connection. You know, as in the 1971 film of the same name.

For the 2008 column, I spoke with Sonny Grosso, one of the New York City cops involved in that historic investigation. (The "Russo" character Roy Scheider played in the film was based on Grosso.)

Grosso said he didn't know anything about Arpaio being involved in the investigation, and he told me, "The only thing that stopped [the French Connection] was our case."

And, no, that wasn't Gene Hackman playing Joe in the movie.

Arpaio boasts that he single-handedly shut down the Turkish drug trade, though Time magazine reports that the opium trade pumped along, unaffected, long after this stereotypical "ugly American" had amscrayed back to the U.S.

As a cop in Las Vegas, he says he pulled over Elvis. No way to prove or disprove it.

And so on.

Arpaio's war stories are full of drug stings gone bad, Mexican standoffs, gun battles, and how clever and tough ol' Joe was back in the day.

One thing I didn't recall from the books was a kidnapping. So I dusted off those volumes and scanned through them again. Didn't see any kidnapping tale.

I downloaded Joe's Law on Kindle and did a search for "kidnap." Kidnapping was mentioned, but only in the context of illegal immigration.

Nor is Joe's kidnapping mentioned on his campaign website, as it currently reads.

I searched Nexis and Google, came up blank. So I called around to folks who know Joe all too well. None of them could recall a kidnapping caper.

 

I phoned Arpaio's campaign manager Chad Willems and Joe's top MCSO flack Lisa Allen, left messages for them, sent them e-mail queries as well. Not a peep in reply.

Maybe Joe's been reticent to tell that story over the years. After all, what big, bad law enforcement dude would want to admit that he was "kidnapped" like a little girl.

Phil Jordan, Arpaio's predecessor as DEA Special Agent in Charge in Phoenix, says it never happened.

Jordan served for more than 30 years in the FBN and the DEA, and later, after Arpaio replaced him here in Phoenix, he became the head of the DEA's El Paso Intelligence Center.

"In my entire career -- Arpaio retired before I did -- not once, not twice were there even rumors that Arpaio had been kidnapped." Jordan told me recently.

Indeed, Jordan remembers the names of all DEA agents kidnapped over the years. As the head of the DEA's intelligence center, it was kind of his job to know those things.

"Kidnappings or murders of our agents sticks out and is registered forever in our brainwaves," he said. "So, for this thing to come out now is beyond comprehension."

Jordan said he could not call Joe a liar on the issue, but he's very familiar with Arpaio's career, and he's never heard of it.

Maybe the commercial makers erred, or maybe Arpaio has some strange, new interpretation of one of those "Mexican standoffs" in his books.

Could I have missed the reference to it somewhere?

The only kidnappings I'm familiar with in relation to Joe would be the kidnappings of my bosses, Village Voice Media Executive Editor Michael Lacey and VVM CEO Jim Larkin back in 2007 by undercover MCSO thugs in unmarked cars.

That is to say, the arrests and the charges were politically motivated and illegal, so I'd count them as kidnappings. Recently, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Arpaio is on the hook for that nighttime retaliation, at least in civil court.

There's no love lost between Jordan and Joe. They have a history going back to the early '70s, when Arpaio was the DEA's guy in Mexico City, as you can read in a 2009 Arizona Republic piece by Dan Nowicki.

Jordan claims Arpaio's reputation in the DEA was as a "joke." Arpaio's nickname "Nickel Bag Joe" was an indication that his busts were strictly small-time, though in his books, Arpaio tries to spin the sobriquet into a positive.

He also scoffed at the contention that organized crime would want to assassinate or kidnap or do anything to Sheriff Joe.

"The cartels would not waste a bullet on [Arpaio]," he stated, adding, "Because [his] law enforcement priorities are dishwashers, landscapers and broken taillights."

Meaning, if law enforcement is tied up chasing the nickel-bag stuff, as is Joe's expertise, that's good for organized crime's business.

Naturally, Jordan is critical of Arpaio's 20-year reign, just like most law men worth their salt. He disagrees strongly with the recent decision of the U.S. Attorney's Office to end its criminal investigation into Arpaio.

He recalled speaking with someone else who was floored by the decision.

"The person stated, `Phil, all I can think of [to explain the decision] is corruption or incompetence,'" he said. "I would like to eliminate the corruption aspect, but when you [consider] the atmosphere that we have in Washington now, when you're allowing guns to go south [in the Fast Furious scandal] and you cover up the ins and outs of it, you know, nothing would surprise me."

Me neither, Phil.

As for this "kidnapping" deal, why are Willems and Allen so reticent to explain it? I mean, it must be some dang great adventure story. Right up there with Shrek or Kung Fu Panda.

If I catch Joe on the street, I'll ask him. Hopefully he'll remember all about it.


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