Arpaio's deputies arrest 19 illegal immigrants at drop house in Phoenix

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- Thanks to information gleaned while working another case, deputies with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office took 19 illegal immigrants into custody at a home used for human smuggling.

It happened at about 6:30 Tuesday morning at 40th Avenue and Van Buren Street.

According to MCSO spokesman Jeff Sprong, all but one of the 19 were from Mexico. The remaining detainee told deputies he is from Costa Rica.

Sprong said the suspects were headed for California, North Carolina, Illinois, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, South Carolina, and Colorado.

Each one reportedly had paid between $1,000 and $3,500 to be smuggled into the U.S.

Sprong did not say anything else about the investigation that led them to this particular home, but there have been several arrests in recent days. It's not clear if they are connected.

"Thirty-six illegal aliens have been arrested by the Sheriff’s Office over the past several days on human smuggling charges and booked into county jail on class 4 felony charges. Clearly this problem isn’t going away," Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said in a news release.

"To date the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Human Smuggling Unit has arrested 5659 illegal aliens involved in human smuggling," Sprong wrote in that same release.

Sprong also confirmed that Arpaio has other operations "in his continuing fight against illegal immigration" in the works, but he did not elaborate.

Arpaio is known for his controversial crime suppression sweeps and identity theft shakedowns.

Accused by many of racial profiling, the U.S. Attorney's Office recently closed a criminal investigation into Arpaio's conduct and alleged abuse of power within his office. That investigation had been going on since at least January 2009 and was abruptly dropped with no explanation on Aug. 31. A press release merely stated that no criminal charges would be filed.

"I never had any doubts," said Arpaio about the decision on the part of the Department of Justice to drop the case.

In a separate proceeding over the summer, Arpaio took the stand in a class-action lawsuit to defend himself and his office against repeated allegations of racial profiling.

Arpaio, 80, is seeking re-election for a sixth term as Maricopa County's sheriff. He faces Democrat Paul Penzone.