CALIPATRIA, Calif. – The United States Department of Justice said eight people, including a supervisory drug counselor at Calipatria State Prison and inmates who participated in the drug rehabilitation program, were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges that they were members of a network that smuggled methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana into the prison.
According to a press release issued Tuesday, this is the first large-scale drug smuggling conspiracy prosecuted in connection with a prison in the Southern District of California. Officials said the drugs and scores of cell phones smuggled into the prison by the drug counselor on one occasion were estimated to have a prison value of nearly $1.2 million.
The key defendant, Angela Carr, was a supervisory drug counselor at the prison. In that capacity, she routinely met with inmates attending the prison’s substance abuse program. Four of Carr’s co-conspirators are inmates – three of whom participated in her drug-addiction recovery program. One of those inmates, D’Mondo Burns, was a drug counseling mentor to other inmates. The other inmates charged include Ryan Hawes, Nathaniel Frazier and Brandon Carroll.
So while these inmates purported to be seeking help in kicking their drug habits, in fact, they were utilizing the prison’s drug counseling program to smuggle drugs and other contraband into the facility.
Hawes was arrested Tuesday morning in Lancaster; Walters was arrested in West Covina and Frazier was arrested in Los Angeles. Burns and Carroll were already in custody; Watson and Turner are at large.
According to a search warrant affidavit, Carr received the drugs from three women who have relationships with inmates at Calipatria. They are identified as Brittney Turner, Tameika Watts and Myesha Walters.
According to the search warrant, Carr would meet the women in parking lots of bowling allies and big-box stores in Palmdale and Moreno Valley to receive the drugs and contraband. Carr then would bring the controlled substances – including methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, Xanax, Valium, Soma and Norco – into the prison, concealed in chip bags, Quaker Oatmeal boxes and cookie and coffee containers. The indictment also alleges that Carr smuggled as many as 40 cell phones at a time into the prison.
These phones were to be sold to other inmates, and used to coordinate criminal activity both inside and outside the facility. All told, authorities believe Carr smuggled drugs and contraband into the Calipatria prison on at least three occasions.
In return, Carr was paid about $3,500 in total. Prison staff do not end up making as much money from these criminal enterprises as they might expect. Manipulative inmates convince correctional staff to first bring in items that seem innocuous, like tobacco and currency. But once the official has done so, inmates quickly begin pressuring the official, under threat of exposure, to bring in drugs, cell phones or other dangerous contraband including items that could be used as weapons. These crimes endanger the safety of the staff and inmates and undermine the security of the public at large.
Carr’s alleged corruption was discovered in August of 2015 when she was confronted at the staff entrance of the prison, reeking of marijuana. She was found to be secretly carrying all of these contraband items. She had almost a pound of methamphetamine; 4 pounds of marijuana; a quarter-pound of heroin; 409 tablets of Soma, Xanax, Valium and Norco; 212 grams of tobacco; four bottles of cough syrup and 39 cell phones. Carr was detained and her case is pending.
This is also the first time that the San Diego Federal Bureau of Investigations and California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials have targeted not only the corrupt prison official, but inmates and their conspirators on the outside. Federal law enforcement officials announced today that, going forward, they will continue to take an aggressive stand against this dangerous activity and targeting all involved.
“We are putting everyone on notice: Whatever part you play in the prison smuggling equation, you’re going to be held accountable,” said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. “If you smuggle drugs and contraband into prisons located in the Southern District of California, we will prosecute you federally. And if you’re in prison, we’re not going to overlook you just because you’re already there.”
“While occupying a position of trust Ms. Carr is alleged to have facilitated the distribution of drugs within the prison population at Calipatria State Prison, thereby undermining the correction and rehabilitation of its inmates,” commented FBI Special Agent in Charge (SAC), Eric S. Birnbaum. “The smuggling of contraband is not only a threat to the integrity of our prison system, but to the safety of the American public which is why the FBI is committed to rooting out corruption at all levels within our prison system.”
“We take allegations of staff smuggling drugs into prison very seriously,” said CDCR California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Scott Kernan. “CDCR fully investigates, and assists in any prosecutions. In this case, we appreciate the collaboration with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”
Calipatria State Prison opened in 1992 and houses about 3,661 inmates. There are 1,280 employees at the prison.
The FBI encourages the public to report allegations of public corruption to our hotline at (877) NO-BRIBE (662-7423).
DEFENDANTS Case Number 15cr3087
Angela Carr Age 44 Moreno Valley
Ryan Hawes Age 25 Lancaster
Brittney Turner Age 29 Lancaster
Nathaniel Frazier Age 28 Los Angeles
Tameika Watts Age 29 Los Angeles
D’Mondo Burns Age 26 Calipatria State Prison
Brandon Carroll Age 34 Calipatria State Prison
Myesha Walters Age 34 West Covina
SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Possession of Controlled Substances with Intent to Distribute – Title 21, U.S.C., Section 841(a) (1)
Maximum Penalty: Life in Prison
Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances – Title 21, U.S.C., Sections 841(a) (1) and 846
Maximum Penalty: Life in Prison
Federal Bureau of Investigation
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s Office of Internal Affairs
*The charges and allegations contained in an indictment or complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.
**This case stems from an ongoing Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) joint investigation conducted by the agencies noted above. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply.