A Santa Cruz County detention officer has been fired and is facing possible criminal charges after he allegedly told his superiors that he smuggled drugs and a cell phone to an inmate at the county jail.

Fabian Lopez, 30, was fired Nov. 4 for violating policies and procedures related to jail operations, Sheriff Antonio Estrada said on Tuesday.

“He came forward and revealed that he had brought in some marijuana at least on one occasion – and a cell phone – for one of the inmates,” Estrada said. “As a result of him coming forward and admitting to that… we decided to terminate him.”

In addition to its internal administrative investigation, the sheriff’s office also called in the Pima County Sheriff’s Office to conduct a criminal probe, which it presented to Santa Cruz County prosecutors on Monday.

“Now we’re going to sit down and review it to determine if charges are appropriate,” County Attorney George Silva said.

Charges could be filed against Lopez or any other people who might have been involved, Silva said.

Lopez, a military veteran, was hired as a county detention officer on Sept. 8, 2010, Estrada said.

“Somehow there was a connection there between him and one of the inmates, and as a result of that, he put himself in a spot by compromising himself by bringing in stuff for this individual,” the sheriff said.

Asked what had led Lopez to confess, Estrada said: “He said when the inmate started to put more demands on him, he said, ‘No, this is not right,’ and he came forward.”

The inmate suspected of conspiring with Lopez was jailed on local charges and was not one of the federal prisoners housed at the county lockup, Estrada said.

Lopez is not listed in the phone directory and could not immediately be reached for comment.

See Friday’s Nogales International for updates

Load comments