Notorious Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio spent the morning crowing about his latest bust—a raid on an Arizona dry cleaners’ where six undocumented immigrants were using false identification to work—but we at America’s Voice have 99.5 million reasons to believe he’s since changed his tune.
An investigation into the Maricopa County sheriff’s office discovered that Arpaio, the Bull Connor reincarnate of immigration enforcement, inappropriately spent $99.5 million from two jail funds over the last eight years to pay for other law enforcement operations—including immigration patrols.
This is really a disaster for the county…Taxpayers are looking at us and saying, ‘How in the hell did it happen?’…For eight years, [Arpaio has] been signing paperwork that says the budget is balanced, but it’s not.
The investigation into Sheriff Arpaio’s finances began six months ago, after budget officials and members of the county Board of Supervisors suspected that “America’s Toughest Sheriff” was using jail tax money to fund pet projects, such as rounding up undocumented immigrants at places like the Burlington Coat Factory and Pei Wei restaurants, or following county supervisors and judges around in failed public-corruption stings.
The $99.5 million figure released yesterday is an update on an estimate from last September, when investigators believed Arpaio had taken between $60 million and $80 million over five years from a jail tax and used it for other purposes. Since then, officials have discovered that $84.7 million had been diverted from the jail tax, while $14.8 million had been taken from a second fund, set up for prison inmates to buy household items and make phone calls.