Sheriff's deputies raid Mesa business, 6 women arrested

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

MESA, Ariz. -- Deputies with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office served a search warrant at Mesa business Wednesday morning as part of the Operation Desert Sky.

Armed with a search warrant, deputies converged on Monte Carlo Cleaners, which is located at Stapley and University drives, at about 8 a.m.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio said his office had information about 11 female employees who allegedly were using false identification. Of the seven people working when deputies arrived, six were arrested. Arpaio said detectives will continue looking for the other five suspects.

"This is our 44th operation," Arpaio said. "We've arrested almost 500 people. Most of them are here illegally."

Arpaio said Wednesday morning's raid was all about identity theft.

"No one seems to talk about ... the serious crime of stealing identification," he said.

Arpaio announced Operation Desert Sky late last month. It’s a series of crime suppression sweeps utilizing dozens of fixed-wind planes to spot smugglers from the air. Spotters in the planes report suspicious activity to deputies on the ground.

In addition to the planes, Operation Desert Sky also makes use of drug-sniffing dogs, armed posse members, units specializing in human and drug smuggling, and SWAT teams armed with M-16 assault rifles.

In the two weeks since Operation Desert Sky launched, deputies have arrested nearly 200 people. Arpaio said 160 of those people were in the U.S. illegally.