Joe Arpaio's Justice Department Problem Could Cost County Up to $25 Million for His Use of Federal Tax Money

If a U.S. Senator from Vermont is right, then Maricopa County could be on the hook for repaying up to $25 million in federal taxpayer coin, thanks to the Justice Department's civil-rights case against Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Senator Patrick Leahy wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday, asking whether the government could recover the $25 million in grants the county's received since 2000.

As part of the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, counties are reimbursed for costs related to jailing undocumented immigrants.

Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wants Holder's office to find out if that federal grant money was "used in connection with the detention of individuals whose civil rights have been violated," his office explains.

As you may recall, the Justice Department investigation into Arpaio and his office claimed some hardcore racial-profiling tactics, as U.S. Attorney Thomas Perez said Arpaio and his top staff created a "culture" of abusing the rights of Latinos in the county.

Leahy would prefer the federal government not use taxpayer dollars to pay for that.

"In light of the findings in your report, I urge the Department [of Justice] to take all appropriate steps to determine whether taxpayer dollars provided through the SCAAP program have been used in connection with the detention of individuals whose civil rights have been violated," Leahy writes. "If so, I urge you to consider possible remedies including whether that funding can be recovered. In addition, until the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office has demonstrated to the Department that it has addressed and corrected the misconduct found by your investigation, I ask what steps the department is taking with respect to current requests for SCAAP funding."

The Justice Department's findings were already enough for Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to end the immigration-enforcement partnership between the MCSO and Homeland Security in December, Leahy notes, as the DHS also restricted county employees' access to an information-sharing program.

Read Leahy's letter to Holder below: