Already the target of a Justice Department investigation for racially profiling Latinos at traffic stops, new allegations are surfacing that Arizona’s Maricopa County deputies shook down dozens – maybe hundreds – of Hispanic residents for cash.
Lawyers for dozens of these Latinos – some of whom are American citizens – say the cash in their client’s possession turned up missing during arrests made by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in Phoenix, Arizona, reported The Associated Press.
One such incident reportedly involved Armando Gutierrez, a US citizen who was heading to Las Vegas with cash from his 2011 tax refund when he and his friends were pulled over by a sheriff’s deputy during a traffic stop.
At this point, Deputy Charley Armendariz searched the car, found a small amount of pot, and spotted nearly $5,000 in the glove box. He arrested Gutierrez for having an outstanding warrant for fishing without a license and seized the money, according to the police report.
“He kept saying, ‘I know you are a drug dealer and you are going to pick up the pot,'” Gutierrez recalled to the AP. “I told him, ‘Dude, we are headed to Vegas.‘”
Gutierrez spent about 10 hours in jail, but was not charged with a crime arising from the traffic stop. The money was finally returned nine months later, but only after a series of emails to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and others, according to AP.