Ex-Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Deputy Arrested for Smuggling Cocaine and Gun Charges

A former sheriff's deputy in Santa Cruz County and another man were arrested on federal drug-smuggling and gun charges.

Federal authorities say 29-year-old former Deputy Jesus R. Contreras and 38-year-old Ernesto Castro were arrested yesterday afternoon after a federal grand jury returned an indictment against the two men last month.

According to authorities, Contreras and Castro tried to move about five kilograms of cocaine through a checkpoint on Interstate 19 in Santa Cruz County on March 2.

The vehicle in which the two men were stopped, according to authorities, was Contreras' marked police car.

While trying to move the drugs, authorities say Contreras was wearing his police uniform and carrying a gun.

After the alleged smuggling attempt, Contreras was fired from the Sheriff's Office and is now in jail, where he and Castro await a detention hearing scheduled for tomorrow. 

"Arizona's law enforcement officers have a duty to uphold the law on our border, where many temptations lurk," says U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke. "The majority do so with honor."

If convicted, the two men face up to life in prison and a $4 million fine.

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