ARIZONA NEWS

Former MCSO detention officer gets 2 years in prison for attempting to smuggle drugs into jail

Mar 14, 2024, 11:00 AM | Updated: 11:01 am

Former MCSO detention officer Andres Salazar was sentenced to two years in prison. (MCSO Photo)

(MCSO Photo)

PHOENIX — A former Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office detention officer received a two-year prison sentence after attempting to smuggle fentanyl and methamphetamine into the jail where he worked, authorities announced Thursday.

Andres Salazar, 28, was arrested in November 2022 as he arrived at Lower Buckeye Jail in Phoenix after investigators learned he was planning to smuggle drugs to a pair of inmates. Authorities found fentanyl and meth in his car upon his arrest.

He pleaded guilty to one count of soliciting to commit promoting prison contraband in December 2023.

Salazar’s accomplices — inmates Gilbert Anthony Lerma and Antwaun Travon Ware and drug dealer Khadar Omar Sheikh — have been indicted for their roles in the scheme, according to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.

“The sentencing of former MCSO detention officer Andres Salazar today is a direct result of the hard work and dedication by the MCSO’s Custody Bureau Intelligence Division, our sworn investigators and MCAO prosecutors,” Interim Sheriff Russ Skinner said in a statement.

“The trafficking of drugs inside our facilities is dangerous and unacceptable and those that pose a public safety risk to our community and our staff members will continue to be held accountable.”

Former MCSO detention officer’s arrest spurred jail changes

Former Sheriff Paul Penzone held a press conference in January 2023 announcing Salazar’s arrest. He also said that the agency would be installing scanning machines at jails to detect for drugs and other contraband.

At that press conference, Penzone said there were 282 incident reports for narcotics in the jails and 158 incoming inmate postcards seized by the mailroom that tested positive for being soaked in fentanyl and/or methamphetamine in 2022.

The body scanners were installed in August 2023 and are staffed with employees who specifically manage the machines.

MCSO has also upped the number of drug detection dogs in recent months. Deputies were alerted of an inmate who was found with drugs during the intake process in February because of the dogs.

“[Body scanners and drug detection dogs] both have shown very, very positive results,” Skinner told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show in February. “I won’t say it’s eradicated it, but it has mitigated it.”

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Former MCSO detention officer gets 2 years in prison for attempting to smuggle drugs into jail