Joe Arpaio Deputy Accused of Human Smuggling Served on Anti-Human-Smuggling Task Force; Detention Officer Pregnant With Cartel "Kingpin's" Baby

One of those arrested, a detention officer, is the baby-mama of a cartel "kingpin" and another is a former member of the sheriff's anti-human-smuggling task force who's himself an alleged human smuggler.

The three officers, Deputy Alfredo Navarette and detention officers Sylvia Najera and Marcella Hernandez, were arrested this morning after a nearly year-long investigation into their connections to drug- and human-smuggling cartels.

The three officers may just be the tip of the iceberg -- Arpaio says at least seven other MCSO deputies are under investigation for possible ties to cartels.

In May of last year, Arpaio says his office received a tip that the officers may be connected to the cartels. He wasn't certain of it, however, until today.

"We came up with the information, and we clean up our own house," America's self-proclaimed "toughest" sheriff grumbled at a press conference this afternoon. "We confirmed our concerns today when [Navarette] admitted to going to our command center and getting information to give to the cartels."

But Navarette, an MCSO deputy since 2000, wasn't just tipping off the cartels about Arpaio's anti-human-smuggling campaigns, he was smuggling humans himself.

When MCSO deputies stormed the west Valley home of Navarette this morning, there were two illegal immigrants in his house (as well as 10 pounds of heroin). According to Arpaio they'd been smuggled into the country illegally and were waiting for the deputy to transport them to California.

Navarette, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement-trained member of Arpaio's anti-human-smuggling task force, was not on human-smuggling detail for the year he was under investigation, Arpaio says, and recently was suspended for unrelated procedural violations.

Hernandez also admitted to having ties to the cartels, and that she is currently eight months pregnant with the baby of Lorenzo Arce-Torres, a known cartel "kingpin" based in Phoenix. When she was arrested, deputies found more than $16,000 in her purse.

Unlike Navarette and Hernandez, Najera, an MCSO detention officer since 2004, refused to cooperate with investigators.

Arpaio says Hernandez and Najera were working together -- it's unclear, however, whether they were connected to Deputy Navarette.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery applauds the MCSO because the officers' alleged involvement with the cartels "wasn't swept under the rug."

"This shows that nobody is above the law, and nobody's beyond the reach of the cartels," he says.

When asked why the public should continue to trust him to be sheriff when the cartels have managed to infiltrate his agency, Arpaio scolded reporters with the following (while inexplicably referring to himself in the third person):

"This sheriff, when something comes to his attention, he doesn't sit back, he takes action," which is debatable/a lie.

During the press conference, Arpaio rambled about his time investigating federal agents for similar offenses.

"I do have some experience in corruption and illegal activity," he says.

We won't dispute that.

Navarette was booked on 24 counts of drug- and human smuggling-related crimes, including assisting in a criminal syndicate, operating a drophouse, and human smuggling. Hernandez was booked on six counts, including narcotic drug transport, conspiracy narcotics transportation, and illegal control of an enterprise. Najera was booked on four counts, including money laundering and participating in a criminal syndicate. 

Arpaio says the investigation is ongoing.

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James King
Contact: James King