PHOENIX — After an eight-year-long legal battle, a local restaurant owner who sued after his business and home were raided by former Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office got a $5 million settlement.
Maricopa County officials approved a settlement with an Arizona restaurant owner who claimed then-Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office had defamed him and violated his rights about seven years ago when investigating whether employees at his restaurants used fraudulent IDs to get jobs.
The $5 million settlement with Uncle Sam's owner Bret Frimmel came weeks after officials signed off on a separate $400,000 settlement to resolve similar claims brought by Uncle Sam's manager Lisa Norton.
Officials approved $3.1 million of Frimmel's settlement. The remaining $1.9 million in his settlement is being covered by an insurer.
Frimmel and Norton were arrested on employment-related identity theft charges that were later dismissed.
But this is not the first time taxpayers have had to foot the bill. Democratic Maricopa County Supervisor, Steve Gallardo says, it’s a never-ending legal fees story.
“We are way over $300 million we have spent in just legal fees and court cases,” said Gallardo.
He says this is just one of the latest they have settled. According to Gallardo, on top of the $5 million, there will be attorney fees which totaled $1.4 million.
“Joe Arpaio has not been the sheriff for a number of years, and we are still paying for his actions,” stated Gallardo.
In July 2013, ABC15 reported, officials were looking for 70 people. In all, they only arrested 10.
Two of those workers were represented by Phoenix immigration lawyer, Delia Salvatierra. She says even though they were also arrested, they won’t benefit from the settlement.
“Frimmel now has won everything he has won every step of the way he has won,” stated Salvatierra.
Salvatierra says her clients worked for Uncle Sam's restaurant for 10 years getting paid only $10 an hour without any benefits.
“Even though Frimmel gets away with money, the overriding lesson here is that the tactics used by the former Maricopa County Sheriff's Office under Arpaio and his partner Bill Montgomery in the prosecution office, do not work. You have to follow the law and you have to follow the law for everyone.”
After Frimmel filed the lawsuit, the search warrants issued to raid the restaurant were found to be illegal and because of that, those workers were let go free. But not after spending months behind bars.
“Yes, he makes $5 million, but I'm sure it's taken a significant toll on him. The workers, you know they've suffered and obviously, Maricopa County taxpayers are no winners here today, either,” stated Salvatierra.
Mr. Frimmel was not available for comment on the settlement, but we spoke on the phone with his lawyer, Mr. Leon Silver.
“My clients are relieved to have this all behind them, they feel they have been vindicated after this very long trying time,” stated Silver.
ABC15 asked if Mr. Frimmel will be using any of the money to help the workers, but we couldn’t get a comment on that. As far as what happened to the workers, none of them got any money, but Salvatierra said at least two got to stay in the U.S. and are right now in the process of getting a U.S. residency.
ABC15 also reached out to former Sheriff Joe Arpaio. In a phone call, Arpaio said: ”I'm disappointed that I didn't have the opportunity to go before a jury of my peers to testify. I'm convinced we would have won this lawsuit."