Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

3 in Maricopa County Sherriff"s Office accused of cartel ties

Wednesday, May 25, 2011 |

by JJ Hensley - May. 25, 2011 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic


From left: Maricopa County Sheriff's Detention Officers Marcella Hernandez, 27, and Sylvia Najera, 25, and Deputy Alfredo Navarrette, 37.

Three Maricopa County sheriff's employees, including a deputy in the human-smuggling unit, were arrested Tuesday by authorities who say they were involved in a drug- and human-trafficking ring and used Sheriff's Office intelligence to guide smugglers through the Valley.

Deputy Alfredo Navarrette, 37, has worked with the Sheriff's Office for nearly a decade, serving in a special unit designed to target human smugglers moving through Maricopa County. But investigators believe Navarrette was himself involved in human smuggling. Investigators found two undocumented immigrants in Navarrette's home when he was arrested early Tuesday morning in a sweep that concluded a yearlong investigation.

"The fight against drugs, illegal immigration and human trafficking is important not only to me but the citizens of Arizona," Sheriff Joe Arpaio said. "That a deputy sheriff would provide information and associate with these drug and human traffickers is despicable."

Investigators from a multijurisdiction drug task force also arrested two sheriff's detention officers, Sylvia Najera, 25, and Marcella Hernandez, 28. They are accused of laundering money and moving drugs for a Valley-based drug-trafficking organization with ties to Mexico.

Arpaio said Hernandez is eight months' pregnant with the child of another suspect arrested Tuesday, Francisco "Lorenzo" Arce-Torres, who is described in court records as a member of the Sinaloa drug cartel and the leader of the Phoenix-based drug-trafficking organization at the heart of the probe.

Court records indicate Hernandez had $20,000 cash on her when she and Najera were arrested Tuesday morning on their way to work at the Lower Buckeye Jail.

12 suspects held

The sheriff's employees were among 12 suspects arrested Tuesday during a series of early-morning raids at 16 locations throughout the Valley where investigators had targeted members of the organization.

The group mostly moved heroin, according to investigators, and officials suspect each of the arrested sheriff's employees played a crucial role in moving the drugs and hiding the illicit profits. Authorities say the ring moved about $56,000 worth of heroin a week through the Valley.

Arce-Torres, who authorities say was the ringleader, arranged for heroin to be brought into the Valley after his brothers produced the drug on the family's ranch in Mexico, according to Superior Court and Justice Court documents filed Tuesday.

Once the drugs arrived in Arizona, they were shipped to two houses in the West Valley, where the heroin was diluted to create more product, investigators said in the court documents.

Hernandez's brother, Duran Joseph Alcantar, who was also among those arrested, is suspected of operating one of the stash houses, and investigators believe Hernandez coordinated the pickup and delivery of heroin from the drug houses.

Investigators say they believe Navarrette helped the ring by fortifying Arce-Torres' home with surveillance cameras, registering drug-courier vehicles in his name and laundering money.

Navarrette and Najera, the other arrested detention officer, helped set up a shell corporation called West Utilities Group Inc., which was used earlier this month to launder nearly $50,000 in drug proceeds, according to court documents.

Najera's name appears on West Utilities Group's corporation filings in Arizona, along with that of a Phoenix construction company owner who was arrested on suspicion of laundering money for the organization.

Investigators believe that, in addition to laundering money and doing other chores for the ring, Navarrette himself was smuggling humans.

"Navarrette assists this (human smuggling) organization by operating a drophouse and on at least five occasions transported illegal aliens from Arizona to California for the organization," records state.

Yearlong inquiry

A tip about the ring came into the sheriff's special-investigations unit almost a year ago, and the investigation moved slowly at the outset, according to sheriff's officials.

Navarrette remained on patrol duty until he was moved to the sheriff's training facility a couple of months ago for a violation of office policy that was unrelated to his suspected role in the trafficking ring.

Sheriff's officials said the probe was unique and had to be handled delicately because of the serious criminal allegations against law-enforcement employees. That meant that transferring one of the suspects to another role within the office, or even pulling personnel files, could have been enough to tip off friends that something was afoot and risk spoiling the investigation.

Navarrette had the most opportunity to gather information and influence investigations because of his work on the streets. Even he could not be moved out of his role in the human-smuggling unit, however, until supervisors found a violation of office policy that gave them reason to move him without compromising the probe.

"There was not enough to take any action against him, either, until very recently," said Deputy Chief Brian Sands, who oversees the human-smuggling group.

Navarrette has been with the Sheriff's Office since 2001 and worked in a variety of roles, including patrol and court services, in addition to his role with the human-smuggling unit.

Rosters for the unit indicate that Navarrette was a member from the earliest days of the sheriff's controversial "crime-suppression operations," when deputies and posse members flood a region of the Valley looking for minor traffic violations and potential immigration offenses.

Arpaio said he believed Navarrette used information from those operations and his position in law enforcement to help coordinate the movement of contraband through the Valley.

"He repeatedly supplied details about the illegal-immigration crime-suppression operation to leaders of the drug-trafficking organization," Arpaio said. "This action placed numerous deputies, reserves and posse volunteers in harm's way while they were volunteering and conducting operations."

Arpaio could not say when Navarrette last worked on a crime-suppression operation with the human-smuggling unit.

Probe continues

The investigation went public when search warrants were served and a series of arrests were made Tuesday. But officials say the probe could last for months and target other suspects.

A few additional sheriff's employees were being interviewed Tuesday night, Arpaio said, to determine what they may know of the suspects' activities in the Sheriff's Office. "Doesn't mean they're guilty of anything," Arpaio added.

Investigators are also trying to determine the extent of the ties between the suspects and members of multinational drug-trafficking organizations operating in Arizona.

Navarrette was booked into the Fourth Avenue Jail on suspicion of 19 violations including conspiracy, money laundering and human smuggling. He was being held on a $1 million cash bond.

Hernandez, booked on suspicion of committing 11 violations, including conspiracy, drug crimes and money laundering, was placed under a $2 million cash bond at a Tuesday court appearance. The reasoning for the $1 million bond disparity was laid out in court documents for Hernandez, who just returned from a trip to San Luis, Mexico, with Arce-Torres, suspected of being the ringleader.

"Hernandez has said that she, Torres and co-conspirator Navarrette have talked about leaving the U.S. and living on one of Torres' ranches in Mexico," the documents state.

Najera was in custody Tuesday and faced money-laundering and other charges.

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25 Borderland Beat Comments:

Anonymous said...

Yea, it doesn't matter how long you get away with it or how much money you make..eventually your gonna get caught. Life for these "turds" is over. I wonder if they think it was worth it?

Anonymous said...

HAH! You fat bitches!

Anonymous said...

surprise surprise all latinos what a shock!

'lito'brito said...

go to prison you fukn putas

Anonymous said...

Looks like another 3 hard working true Americans.....I think not. I'm sure when this hits CNN, they won't say Latin American..They will just call them American.

Anonymous said...

Mexican Americans doing what Mexicans do bringing the family business to the promised land. An example needs to be made bond needs to be 5M each and they need to spend at least 30 yrs in jail. This is a good example of why the US needs to get behind Calderon big time, if you can civalize Mexico we all win.

Santiago-Del Rio said...

Pinches ratas mejicanas. I hope authorities throw the book at them. And of all things,they swore to uphold the law. There is nothing worse than a crooked cop. Was it worth it to deal with drugs and bringing illegals to the US? I don't think so. They made a little money for some time, now they pay the piper. Let me serve on the jury when these cocksuckers are put on trial. These greedy bastards need to be made examples of.

Anonymous said...

They are traitors to the US, the must be executed or put in a military jail for life.

Anonymous said...

"Francisco "Lorenzo" Arce-Torres"
Is that Pancho Arce?
The one who's mentioned in some antrax songs...

Anonymous said...

why should there be a distinction between americans. an american is an american or at least that is how our enemies view us. how about you keep your ignorant comments to yourself, "american".

Anonymous said...

The real question is: Were they cartel members before joining the force or did they get corrupted after.

I'm guessing before.

Anonymous said...

What people fail to realize it that Joe Arpaio is working with the cartels. He just acts tough on tv but under the table he is secretly working for them haha.

Aleric said...

I dont care what their name or nationality is, the cop needs to be put up for the death penalty for all the lives he risked and the weapons he sold that were used to kill people. The other two women need to go to jail for life.

Anonymous said...

Im not sure why anyone is surprised by this...gangs recruit people with clean records to work in prisons and jails. I worked in TDCJ briefly and there were individuals in my training class that were there specifically at the behest of Barrio Azteca, to work in the ElPaso region. Presumably they would be on the gangs payroll in exchange for letting/assisting in the passage of info in and out of facilities.

Anonymous said...

Texcoco Mex said.

I'm telling you, corruption is getting bigger by the day. I have seen the increased in corruption since 2006 on the news. On Feb 9 2010 A woman who worked as an informant for the FBI against the Mexican mafia talked about the corruption in San Diego.

Anonymous said...

To all you racist pricks on here...corruption affects everyone...its the temptation of money that gets everyone. So FK YOU PUTOS!!

And if you don't believe me here some examples:

"Detective Jason Fredriksson, 38, provided the marijuana to the woman so she could sell it, police said."

"ONATHAN S. CALLAHAN, 27, of Atlanta, a patrol officer with the Clayton County Police Department, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of accepting money to use his law enforcement position to protect illegal drug transactions, possessing a stolen firearm, and stealing personal property from drivers during traffic stops."

"Adrian Makuch, 49, was arrested and charged with prostitution, solicitation, corruption of a minor and related offenses after he allegedly propositioned a 15-year old boy for sexual contact, police said."

"A Revere police officer has been arrested and charged with corruption by lying to the FBI and accepting a $200 bribe. According to the Department of Justice, Todd Randall, 40, of Revere, met with an FBI witness and accepted the bribe in exchange for providing interference with a criminal case. "

"The deputy chief of the Banteay Meanchey provincial police anti-drug bureau has been arrested for allegedly taking bribes in a case officials said is linked to the high-profile arrest earlier this year of former Banteay Meanchey police chief Hun Hean.

Khieu Sara, 45, was sent to Banteay Meanchey provincial prison on Friday after being charged with corruption under the UNTAC criminal code, said Theam Chanpiseth, a judge at Banteay Meanchey provincial court. The charge carries a possible prison term of between three and seven years."

So corruption comes in all forms and colors. All these cases are WHITE OFFICERS!!

"surprise surprise all Caucasians what a shock!"

"Looks like another 5 hard working true Americans.....I think not. I'm sure when this hits CNN, they won't say White American..They will just call them American."

Bunch of racist dumb-asses I swear!!

Anonymous said...

One difference I think we all can agree on is that they will be prosecuted and the US has a better prosecution rate than 2%.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
To all you racist pricks on here...corruption affects everyone...its the temptation of money that gets everyone. So FK YOU PUTOS!May 26, 2011 12:50 PM


You're awesome! Out of all the comments I read yours was the best written and I totally agree with you. It's refreshing to read a comment that has correct spelling too! :)

Anonymous said...

@12:50 Ah very good, a racist calling a racist racist AND he's got documentation. Good work 12:50.

I'm a white guy and I figure I might as well be racist because the minorities, that are not minorities anymore, are going to accuse me of racism anyway. Best to be an undercover racist, oops, hypocrisy rears it's ugly head.

Whatever race they are, these three should hang. Make an example of them Joe.

Anonymous said...

It`s not racist. It`s the truth. The majority of jail population is black, latino, then anglo. With Anglo having more citizens in the US, the percentages are heavily stating that Blacks and Latino`s commit more crimes than whites. What`s racist about the statistics? If the stats said white folks eat more goat than hispanic people, is that racist? Enough with the race baiting, we`re all grown ups in the 21st century. We`ve heard all about how "insensitive" it can be to call someone a Jew, a Kike, a Wap, a Chink, a Gringo, a Spic,.................I think we can move past that and see the truths for what they are, the Latin culture is what it is. Same as the Anglo culture and African culture. all have issues, some more than others.

Anonymous said...

Texcoco Mex said.

What that Fuck is this. Mexican Americans doing what Mexicans do bringing the family business to the promised land.
Only recently the Mexicans have taking control of the drug trade. Haven't you people read about Gary Webb, before the Mexicans was Frank Lucas, Eddie Nash, Melvin Williams, Sherman Williams, Andrew Warren CIA operative sentenced on March 3, 2011 to serve 65 months, Carlos Anibal Vignali had his federal prison sentence commuted by President Clinton, Joe Valachi, Andrew C. Thornton II, Arnold Squitieri, William Trickett Smith II, Barry Seal a CIA and Medellin Cartel pilot, Nicholas Santora, Salvatore Ruggiero, Ricky Ross, Pete Rose, Jr., Jon Roberts, Wallace Rice, Michael Registe, Thomas Ravenel a politician and the son of a Congressman Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Maybe I'm wrong but I think the Mexicans learn from the U.S American people. We Mexicans are so stupid and we don know how to mix chemicals to make drugs, and our technology is so low. Were do we get that technology from?

Anonymous said...

I found more all American people bringing the family business to the promised land.

Kenneth McGriff, O. G. Mack, Denny McLain American professional baseball player, Ciro Mancuso, Howard Mason, Frank Matthews, Eliadah McCord, Max Mermelstein, Barry Mills (Aryan Brotherhood), Felix Mitchell, Bam Morris American football running back who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Boris Nayfeld, Nate Newton American football offensive lineman in the National Football League, Vincent Papa (French Connection Theft), John Paul, Sr. American race car driver, Frank Polizzi, William Leonard Pickard, Randy Thomas Lanier American race car driver. Don Siegelman Governor convicted on a RICO case, H. Paul Rico FBI agent.

Anonymous said...

Maybe some people, no matter what the "race", simply have no conscience. "Nurture or nature" is an old argument, and it will not be answered here.
By the way, Mexican is not a "race". Mexican is an ethnicity and a nationality. There are only three races presently recognized: African, Asian, and Caucasian. Pick one, or perhaps two. Why not all three?
As best I can tell, Mexicans are, for the most part, a generous blend of native people (generally regarded as Asian) and some other quantities of Caucasian or African.
There are few of us who know for certain what race(s) made us who we are. So far as I see it, that makes us all equals.
Ya'll try to remember this and stop bickering.
Imjustagirl

Anonymous said...

Difference is that Mexicans have and are taking over at least 4 US States,which means the culture,values,loyalty,ethics of the new majority is having a increasingly marked effect on the community stability,crime rate,social services,they bring also involvment with the drug trade. No other group has ever taken over States,Things are deteriorating not improving.

Anonymous said...

Are all of you "Anonymous's" for Real?Corruption
is Corruption; and I don't care if your Black,
White,Yellow,Red or Heinz 57. Human Nature dictates "GREED" not the color or race of a person! It just so happens that Mexico is the
host country in this case,so obviously people
of Mexican decent as well as people fluent in
spanish are quite naturally going to be mabey one step closer to the principal but how about
people of Canadian citizenship? Do you think just mabey drugs come from the "Canucks" or possibly the Carribean? Does this mean all
Mexicans,West Indians,Canadians are Corrupt.
and are "Drug Smugglers"!! Cmon Get F--ken Real!
Peopl are Corrupt not nationalities, and If
Americans didn't have so much dinero and an
appetite for all the illicit drugs they can consume; we wouldn't be having this Forum!

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