Posted on May 25, 2011

3 Cops Under ‘America’s Toughest Sheriff’ Joe Arpaio, Busted for Role in Drug & Human Smuggling Ring

Philip Caulfield, Daily News (New York), May 25, 2011

Three Arizona cops smuggled drugs and humans and laundered money for a vast narco-trafficking ring, all under the nose of the self-proclaimed “America’s toughest sheriff,” authorities said.

One of the moles, a female corrections officer, was carrying the love child of a cartel capitán, and all three were accused of leaking sheriff’s office tips to help the ring guide smugglers, drugs and cash through the area from Mexico, authorities said.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said Deputy Alfredo Navarette, 37, and two corrections officers, Sylvia Najera, 25, and Marcella Hernandez, 28, were among 12 people rounded up in Tuesday’s sting.


Navarette, a 10-year veteran of Arpaio’s anti-human smuggling unit, was arrested when he showed up for work, and a sweep of his apartment found two illegal immigrants hiding there.

Arpaio said Hernandez was eight-months pregnant with the child of Francisco Arce-Torres, the operation’s ringleader, who has ties to Mexico’s notorious Sinaloa cartel.

She and Najera were busted on their way to work at the county’s largest jail, and cops said Hernandez had nearly $20,000 on her.


The smuggling ring moved $56,000 of heroin into the area each week, cops said, and each of the dirty cops played a crucial role in keeping the operation underground.