Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Smuggling allegation at prison reviewed

March 26. 2013 11:46PM

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Luzerne County officials received reports an attorney was smuggling drugs into the prison but found no evidence validating the claim an attorney was involved.

County District Attorney Stefanie J. Salavantis confirmed an investigation was conducted into a December 2012 allegation that controlled substances were being brought into the prison.

According to Salavantis:

A female inmate tested positive for controlled substances in early December. The inmate was placed in restricted housing, but repeated prison searches of the inmate’s cell and cell block revealed no drugs or related evidence.

A subsequent test of the inmate showed negative results, but information about the matter was still forwarded to the state Attorney General’s Office and county District Attorney’s Office.

The District Attorney’s Office initiated its own investigation into the matter. County detectives interviewed prison officials and personally spoke with a complainant, a relative of the adult inmate, who gave a statement but did not provide any letters or other documentation.

Following rumors that an attorney was involved, security and surveillance were increased on visits by that attorney.

“Prison officials were placed on heightened alert,” a news release stated. “No evidence of such involvement was found.”

The inmate never lodged a complaint about any claim with a prison official or other law enforcement agent. In January, the inmate was transferred to a state correctional facility for reasons unrelated to this incident and to date has not made any complaint to either prison officials or law enforcement about alleged drug smuggling.

County solicitor Vito DeLuca said prison employees and inmates reported the allegation to prison management several months ago.

“Prison management immediately contacted law enforcement and also conducted its own investigation,” said DeLuca. “Certain adjustments to security protocol were made as a result.”

County Manager Robert Lawton told county council about the matter in an email around midnight Monday after WBRE-TV broadcast a story about the alleged drug smuggling. The report described the suspect as an area defense attorney.

Lawton said prison officials previously were alerted to the allegations and contacted District Attorney’s Office detectives. “An investigation at that time did not yield conclusive evidence supporting the allegations,” Lawton told council.

He said county staff responded “promptly and appropriately upon learning about the rumors.”

“In response, LCCF staff have heightened awareness regarding the individual alleged to be involved, but no actionable evidence has been obtained as of this date,” Lawton told council.

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