Sheriff: Maricopa County detention officer who tried to smuggle meth, fentanyl inside jail arrested

Scanning machines will be installed at Maricopa County jails after a detention officer was arrested for allegedly trying to smuggle in drugs.
Published: Jan. 11, 2023 at 3:24 PM MST|Updated: Jan. 12, 2023 at 4:54 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office said in a press conference Wednesday that a detention officer was arrested for allegedly trying to smuggle in about 100 fentanyl pills and methamphetamine into a Phoenix jail.

Sheriff Paul Penzone said 26-year-old Andres Salazar, who worked at Lower Buckeye jail, had been taken into custody around 3:20 p.m., about 10 minutes before the press conference started. Penzone said the former detention officer “recently worked with inmates and some folks on the outside” but says his office has strong reason to believe this was Salazar’s first attempt. Salazar was hired in 2019.

Court documents say between June 1, 2022 and Nov. 17, 2022, investigators were monitoring inmates talking to Salazar about smuggling drugs into the jail. Deputies believed Salazar tried to sneak in 100 fentanyl pills, heroin, meth and wax marijuana. Investigators confirmed Salazar was the detention officer involved after speaking to an inmate, court paperwork says.

Investigators said Salazar met with someone else and was paid $1,000 to smuggle in the drugs. Deputies also discovered he intended to deliver the drugs on his next overtime work shift. On Nov. 17, Salazar reportedly tried to go into the jail, but was stopped in the parking lot and detained, according to court paperwork. “A 26 year-old young man by all accounts and purposes has basically destroyed his career and his life. Number two, a trusted member of this organization was willing to do something so egregious that it could have cost people their lives to include the people that stood right next to him. And that disgusts me,” said Penzone.

In an interview with investigators, Salazar reportedly admitted to the crimes and said he still had the drugs in his car. Court paperwork says deputies searched his vehicle and found the drugs in a duffle bag and $900 in a compartment. A test later confirmed the drugs found in Salazar’s car were fentanyl and meth, deputies said. “This young man, whatever lead him to make this decision, will now not only lose his career but most likely the future that he has for himself is definitely going to be hindered,” Penzone said.

In addition, deputies say Salazar also forged his time card entries between Jan. 11, 2022 and July 12, 2022. According to court documents, he received overtime pay for 34 shifts where he clocked in remotely, but never actually worked. Salazar was paid roughly $8,109 for the false shifts. He reportedly admitting to clocking in by phone betwen 32-35 times during 2022 and didn’t report for work.

With the arrest, Penzone said his office will buy and install new scanning devices in jails and scan detention officers. Former Phoenix assistant police chief Andy Anderson says actions like installing the scanning machines are part of holding law enforcement officers to a higher standard of conduct. “The processes they go through to get hired, and then the process of the scrutiny they go through while on the job is probably higher than most professions out there,” he explained.

Meanwhile, Penzone’s message to other detention officers is simple. “It’s damn important. And you better be committed to why we’re doing it. Otherwise, find a door. I don’t want you,” he said. Salazar was booked on charges of possession of drugs, promoting prison contraband and transporting drugs for sale.