Feds Debunk Another Sheriff Babeu Claim, Say Cartels Not Really Occupying "75-100" Hilltops in Pinal County

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu

Cartel members aren't really turning Pinal County into something more like Afghanistan, despite what Sheriff Paul Babeu wrote in a letter last week to the mayors of several Arizona border cities.

Ironically, the sheriff had written in response to the mayors' urging that he stop putting out inflammatory, inaccurate statements about drug cartel violence because of its affect on regional tourism.

"Just this week, the US Department of Homeland Security confirmed that Pinal County has a minimum of 75-100 mountains or high terrain features that are occupied by Mexican Drug Cartels," Babeu wrote.

That sounded like total bullshit to us when we first heard it. After a few e-mails and phone calls, we realized we were wrong: It's only 98 percent bullshit.

map two.jpg
Image: Pinal County
This map shows the portion of Pinal County that is overlapped by the Tohono O'odam reservation.

Babeu's spokesman, Tim Gaffney, began backpedaling the story as soon as we called about this issue on Friday.

"They're not occupied 24/7," Gaffney said. "They don't sit around in one location. They move around. Cat-and-mouse-type games."

A better way to put it would be "occasionally used hideouts," he said.

But there's an even bigger boo-boo in Babeu's statement: Gaffney admits that the DHS briefing had been referring to cartel scouts in Pinal County AND the sprawling Tohono O'odham Indian Community, which stretches to the Arizona-Mexico border.

A DHS official says "occasionally used hideouts" isn't correct, either.

The official, who asked to remain unidentified for some crazy reason, sent an e-mail to New Times stating:

...what the Sheriff may be referring to are potential locations, where tactically that is a possibility, but not necessarily a reality. As part of regular enforcement operations in Tucson Sector, the Border Patrol identifies and documents possible scouting locations in each specific border zone. This information is distributed to agents working in each specific area, as well as our partners with the Alliance to Combat Transnational Threats (ACTT), including the Pinal Cty Sheriff's Office. This information does not indicate that all of these scouting locations are being occupied by Mexican drug cartel members.


How did Babeu turn "potential locations" in Pinal County and the Tohono reservation where cartel scouts might hide into something quite different?

Gaffney tells us this morning that the briefing by ICE had been about cartel activity in Pinal County, so Babeu assumed that a reference to the Tohono meant the part of the Indian reservation that overlaps with Pinal. He sent us part of an e-mail from Eric Balliet, resident agent-in-charge of DHS investigations in Casa Grande, which Gaffney hoped would explain why Babeu wrote what he did:


The information we provided is: (Drug-trade organizations) deploy approximately 75-100 scouts positioned throughout the mountains in Stanfield and on the Tohono O'Odom reservation

Obviously that does not translate to 75-100 scouts within Pinal County as the Tohono O'Odom reservation stretches all the way to the border.


We're not really sure how that helps Babeu's case.

Gaffney commits another mistake in a follow-up letter Gaffney sent to the mayors last week:

Tonight when you go to bed and have "sweet dreams of tourism dancing through your head" please say a prayer for the men and women of the Pinal County Sheriff's Office who are involved nightly with vehicle and foot pursuits involving cartel members responsible for drug and human trafficking.

When asked about the "involved nightly" quote this morning, Gaffney admits that he doesn't have stats to back up that claim.

The county sheriff's office noted 340 pursuits last year, he says -- but he acknowledges that the figure includes pursuits that had nothing to do with cartels. Clearly, in a growing county with an estimated population of 350,000, non-cartel pursuits occur on a regular basis.

This isn't the first time we've debunked info about cartels coming from Babeu's office. And, in a story that made national headlines, New Times writer Paul Rubin cast major doubt on the tales of Deputy Louie Puroll, who was later fired.

Thing is, Babeu's office doesn't need to exaggerate the smuggling activity in Pinal County to get our attention. Pursuits involving cartel members may not be occurring "nightly," even on average, but they are common. Gaffney says the sheriff's office was involved in four smuggling-related pursuits on February 16th, and two on the 19th.

It's also scary to think that 75-100 drug cartel scouts may be employed in Arizona, even if they're not all in Pinal County. A multi-agency, anti-smuggling enforcement effort led by the Arizona Department of Public Safety in the Vekol Valley recently resulted in 110 arrests and seized drugs and guns.

But Babeu's extremely ambitious. His name has lately showed up in news articles pegging him as someone who might be interested in a possible run for the U.S. Senate. It's easy to speculate that his desire to be in the news causes him to skew the facts a tad.

His office prides itself on its "transparency," and we'll be the first to admit that Babeu doesn't play games with public information as does Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Still, transparency isn't worth much without accuracy.

vekol smuggling truck.jpg
Image: Arizona DPS
It's clear that plenty of smugglers pass through Pinal County, as can be seen from this DPS photo of a truck caught recently in Vekol Valley. The issue doesn't need embellishment.



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20 comments
Iampattietoo
Iampattietoo

There are thousands of illegals crossing the Arizona border daily, and drug trafficking beyond our imagination. This cannot be denied. I live in California where illegals are a problem and where law enforcement looks the other way. We have a Mayor in Los Angeles who says, "There are no illegals".

ChuckFarley
ChuckFarley

There are lies, damned lies and then there are statistics. Mark Twain

ChuckU
ChuckU

Transparancy in government. The container may be clear, but the contents continue to run deep and murky.

o0DaGal0o
o0DaGal0o

Bottom line is... there is a potential for extreme violence to spill over into our state, our country. These cartels are serious and they are growing stronger by the minute. 1 hilltop is one too many. 1 house full of hostiges is too much. The drugs , guns and money flow endlessly across the border in an endless wave of violence, secrecy and determination of the various cartel members. If you really want to believe the border is safer than ever.... go ahead. It still doesn't change the facts. The border is not safer than ever...and it becomes more dangerous every day. And that's no exaggeration.

teknik1200
teknik1200

what matters is public opinion and not fact. if you can manipulate public opinion the public will stand behind you. this is nothing but propaganda aimed at scaring us, as is all the talk of being under an "invasion".

the sad thing is that the general public does not need facts to base an opinion on, all they need is a few people saying and to the public's eyes it becomes true.

Below Center Mass
Below Center Mass

Babeu does a disserve to the men and women of the U.S. Border Patrol. I challenge Babeu and his little sidekick Gaffney to sit at Love's station and watch the amount of Border Patrol during shift change. The BP fields alot of assess each day. Babeu the National Guard determined that they should not promotion or advance you for a reason.

Bucky
Bucky

The real point to be made is not whether it is 75 to 100 hill tops, but 1 hill top. If there is one, and our so-called Department of Homeland Security is sitting on their collective asses, then Janet Napolitano and her entire organization are negligent. If she, as a member of the executive branch reporting to the President, is negligent, then the President is negligent in performing his sworn duty.

Oznog1
Oznog1

The same federal government that is denying this claim made by Sheriff Babeu is the same federal government that is in denile that we have a problem on our border as well as 80 miles north of our border. "Our border is safer than its ever been" is the crap that is being spewed by DHS, While drug and human smugglers continue their nightly runs through the desert unchallenged by the Feds....

XSoldier
XSoldier

Babeu is a fraud and a liar, just like his now-shitcanned deputy, Louie Puroll.

Kit Carson
Kit Carson

>"Thing is, Babeu's office doesn't need to exaggerate the smuggling activity in Pinal County to get our attention."

What is it about some people that even when they have enough information on their side to be persuasive, they nonetheless must go over the top to "prove" their argument?

All it does is weaken what would have been a strong position, thereby losing them converts and diminishing their credibility.

Nice reporting ...

dean
dean

Fraud and liar is exactly right! I hope New Times continues to expose him for the bs artist he is. He's like my ex...never wrong, not influenced by the facts, always blame someone else, deny, distort, and exagerate!

J Curwen
J Curwen

This is what I keep telling my associates in the pot legalization community. Going over the top weakens one's position. Let the other side do the lying and prevarication; then use that to your advantage.

XSoldier
XSoldier

Babeu is a younger, bald, brainless version of the MCSO shurf, the biggest fraud and liar, as well as the most corrupt, public official in Arizona, if not the United States....

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