44 detained after feds serve warrants at Phoenix-area car washes

44 detained after feds serve warrants at Phoenix-area car washes

Updated:
PHOENIX -

It wasn't your typical Saturday at the car wash.

Saturday afternoon, federal agents swooped in to serve search and arrest warrants at more than a dozen locations associated with Danny's Family Car Wash.

The car wash supports the law enforcement community and often holds car washes for fallen officers.

ICE officials say the owners and management of Danny's Car Washes and it's staffing service HR Betty are targets a two-year criminal investigation.

FOX 10 spoke with someone familiar with the business who wasn't surprised.
 
"It was very well orchestrated. They all came in, swooshed in there and it was all business," said Pam Rotalo.

Rotalo was waiting to get her car washed when dozens of federal agents appeared at the Danny's Family Car Wash on 20th Street and Highland around 11 a.m.

"They took people away in handcuffs and they let some people go," said Rotalo.

Agents with ICE Homeland Security Investigations executed search and arrest warrants at 16 Danny's Family Car Wash locations around the valley.

ICE says it's part of an ongoing criminal investigation involving alleged criminal immigration fraud, identity theft and financial violations.

A person who did not want their identity revealed says they are familiar with Danny's Family Car Washes and how they operate.

They say when the company would get tipped off about a raid, they'd get rid of undocumented workers, but promise to bring them back after the raid and rehire them under different names.

ICE won't confirm the details of the investigation, but say we'll know more on Monday when US Federal Court documents are likely unsealed.

UPDATE: 14 of the people arrested, four US citizens and 10 Mexican nationals, were placed under federal arrest, 30 were taken into custody by ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations based on prior criminal or immigration histories and 179 of the people were released.

"We are investigating employers that are not playing by the rules, employers that are breaking the law, that is our priority and we'll continue to keep doing these investigations," said Barbara Gonzalez with ICE Homeland Security Investigations.  

ICE officials stress this was not an immigration raid for the purpose of rounding up undocumented workers.

They say undocumented workers who do not have criminal records or other reason to be detained, will be released.

It's unknown if the car washes will re-open tomorrow.

We reached out to the car wash and HR Betty Saturday, but have not heard back.

The CEO Of Danny's Family Car Washes filed for bankruptcy in 2011.

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