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Wednesday
May252011

Three Arizona Cops Arrested for Human, Drug Smuggling

John Moore/Getty Images(MARICOPA COUNTY, Ariz.) -- Three cops under the command of "America's toughest sheriff," including a deputy in the human smuggling unit, have been arrested in Arizona and charged with trafficking in humans and drugs.

Deputy Alfredo Navarrette and two female prison guards were arrested following a year-long sting that netted nine other people in a suspected criminal ring.

"Unfortunately we had a deputy and two officers that became involved in an international drug and illegal immigration operation," Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the controversial head of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, told ABCNews.com.

Arpaio bills himself as "America's toughest sheriff" for his no-nonsense handling of inmates and for his zero tolerance of illegal immigrants.

Navarrette, 37, who was allegedly caught with two illegal immigrants and $200,000 worth of heroin in his home at the time of his arrest, is accused of feeding a drug ring confidential police information and also of operating a separate human smuggling ring.

One of the prison guards, Marcella Hernandez, is eight months pregnant with the child of Francisco Arce-Torre, the heroin ring's alleged "kingpin" and a member of the Mexican Sinaloa cartel, said Arpaio.

Both Hernandez, 28, and Navarrette had received training and been certified by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

At the time of Hernandez's arrest, Arpaio said, she reporting for duty and was carrying $16,000 in her purse.

All three suspects -- Navarrette, Hernandez and corrections officer Sylvia Najera -- were booked on felony trafficking charges.

Hernandez was charged with transporting drugs and money laundering and was ordered held on $2 million bond.

Najera was charged with money laundering and controlling a criminal enterprise, but bail was not immediately set.

None of the arrested officers have entered pleas or obtained legal counsel.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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