TEMPE, Ariz. -- In an effort to crack down on identity theft and enforce employer sanctions, Maricopa County sheriff's deputies arrested 31 people while serving search warrants at the Tempe location of a Phoenix-based business called 21st Century® Healthcare.
Deputies converged on the building southwest of Broadway Road and Mill Avenue after 9 a.m. Tuesday.
According to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, a five-month investigation led the Criminal Employment Enforcement Squad to believe that 34 employees at the warehouse used false identification to get their jobs. Deputies arrested 31 of those suspects.
This was Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's 58th employer sanction/identity theft operation.
In previous operations, all of the suspects found to be using stolen identities to get jobs were illegal immigrants, according to MCSO.
"Illegal aliens are stealing identities of U.S. citizens to gain employment which escalates our unemployment problems," Arpaio said in a news release. "I don't believe we should tolerate this."
"It's our 58th raid going into a private business because of theft of identification," Sheriff Joe Arpaio said outside the business today."I think I proved a point today," Arpaio said, "I'm not backing down."
Identity theft is a felony charge.
While Arpaio says he's been criticized by some elected officials for these employer sanctions/identity theft raids, he said such operations "open up job opportunities for legal citizens."
According to the company's website, 21st Century Healthcare, Inc. is one of the country's largest manufactures of dietary supplements. Its products are used in more than 50 countries throughout the world.
"A recipient of the prestigious 'Exporter of the Year' award in the State of Arizona, 21st Century® offers one of the world’s largest selections of high-quality healthcare products and nutritional formulations," reads the website.
After the raid, Jim Jumpeter, the chief financial officer of 21st Century Healthcare, denied any wrong doing on the part of the business.