24 arrested in MCSO raid on Phoenix business

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by Catherine Holland

azfamily.com

Posted on May 6, 2010 at 8:53 AM

Updated Thursday, May 6 at 5:48 PM

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PHOENIX -- Maricopa County sheriff's deputies raided a Phoenix business Thursday morning in the culmination of a six-month investigation that started with a tip to the MCSO immigration hotline.

Deputies converged on the area of 48th Avenue and Van Buren Street shortly after 8 a.m.

According to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, investigators had information that 35 people working at Lasermasters, a company that supplies printer cartridges, are allegedly undocumented immigrants who used fake documents to get their jobs.

MCSO said its deputies, armed with search warrants, went to the Lasermasters location to look for employee files and records on those 35 people. By the end of operation, 24 Lasermasters employees had been arrested, all suspected of being in the country illegally and engaging in identity theft.

MCSO Det. Aaron Douglas said the raid was part of a potential employer-sanctions case. Sheriff Joe Arpaio said this operation -- the 32nd of its kind -- had nothing to do with SB 1070, Arizona's new anti-illegal-immigration law, although he does believe the law will be beneficial as his office works these kinds of cases in the future.

One employee who was at Lasermasters when the raid went down spoke to 3TV's Javier Soto, saying deputies busted into the building, yelling "Where are the rats hiding?"

Arpaio said his deputies did their jobs properly, executing the operation "very professionally."

"We went in very, very professionally. We did not draw our guns even though 10 people were escaping, trying to escape. We still did not draw our guns," Arpaio said. "We know what we did, and the people inside know what we did.

"The bottom line is we came in here, enforcing the laws, executing search warrants, and you're always going to have some critics make up stories," he continued.

The employee who talked to Soto said he is an Hispanic American who has blond hair and blue eyes. The man said at no point did the deputies try to question him about his immigration status.

One woman who arrived on the scene became very emotional when her significant other was loaded on to the waiting sheriff's van. She actually had to be restrained as she tried to get to him.

According to MCSO, the previous operations like this morning's raid have resulted in 362 undocumented immigrants being arrested. Of those, 231 were suspected of identity theft, which is a class 4 felony.

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