By The Associated Press

Federal authorities say they intend to file suit against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his department over allegations of civil rights violations.

The U.S. Justice Department sent a letter dated Wednesday to lawyers for Arpaio, giving his office "notice of intent to file civil action."

Arpaio's office has been accused of racially profiling Latinos, basing immigration patrols on racially charged citizen complaints that didn't allege crimes and punishing jail inmates for speaking Spanish.

The Department of Justice also has accused Arpaio of having a culture of disregard for basic constitutional rights.

Arpaio has denied allegations of systematic discriminatory policing and has insisted the Justice Department provide facts to prove its allegations.

The Justice Department said a 22-page letter that it sent Arpaio's office in December provided those details.