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Former Prison Security Chief Convicted

By Julia Lutsky

William T. Mack, 53, was convicted at the end of May in a continuing federal investigation of corruption at the Mansfield Correctional Institute (MANCI) in Ohio. Mack, who had been chief of security at MANCI prior to his transfer to Grafton Correction Institute (GCI) in February of 1995, was found guilty of two counts of mail fraud and one of wire fraud in Federal District Court in Cleveland. The charges against him centered around an airline ticket which he accepted from James D. Crow, III, then a prisoner at MANCI, and the signing of incorporation papers for two businesses which Crow and fellow MANCI prisoner, Edward Swiger, 30, ran from the prison.

Crow, 32, began serving an 87 month federal sentence last February at Milan, Michigan for masterminding business from MANCI and for smuggling drugs into the prison in soup cans. Swiger has also been convicted of federal conspiracy for his part in the drug smuggling.

Convicted in the same investigation was Mansfield private detective and former Richland County deputy sheriff William N. Spognardi. Spognardi, 42, had pleaded guilty to bank fraud for which he received one day of custody, 4 years of supervised release, a $4,000 fine and 200 hours of community service. He had obtained a $101,200 loan from Richland Trust for WTM Trucking, one of Crow's firms for which Mack had signed incorporation papers. Crow, in turn, used the money to purchase four houses in Mansfield from Spognardi. The houses were part of a program Crow called Second Chances, that would offer reasonable rentals to the families of MANCI prisoners. Swiger testified that, in addition, Crow had the idea of purchasing a bachelor pad in Mansfield where he would have prostitutes to lure Mansfield area politicians into compromising situations.

In his testimony, Crow spoke of Mack as "Gullible Willie," saying that when he was an MANCI prisoner he would regularly pass him $200 or $300. He testified that Mack had given him use of the MCI security office on various occasions for unauthorized visits with his lady friend, Valerie Hamilton. In return Crow presented Mack with the airline ticket in question, as well as with a bottle of scotch, saying he thought Mack deserved both. Crow and Swiger had found that befriending Mack would prove to their advantage. "He (Mack) controlled a lot of things in that institution that would make us money," Crow is quoted as saying when he was cross examined by U.S. Attorney Miles Ehrlich. Evidence presented at the trial indicated Mack had signed agreements with Crow to start both WTM Trucking and The Richland Gun Club, a combination gun store and indoor shooting range.

When asked about his connection to Ohio state Representative, Frank S. Sawyer (D-Butler), Crow invoked the Fifth Amendment. So too did Sawyer in his testimony. Sawyer had earlier been a target of the investigation but was never charged. He had been on the Board of Directors for Crow's Second Chances enterprise and, in 1994, he had led a drive to obtain clemency for Crow. Later, when Mack had been transferred to GCI, and both Crow and Swiger wanted to continue their relationship with him, they enlisted Sawyer to help obtain transfers for them as well.

Crow had claimed he could smuggle a gun and drugs out of MANCI. Sawyer asked him to prove it. Sawyer testified that he then received a package marked as having come from the prison, but it turned out that Crow's friend, Hamilton, had in fact delivered it to him. In return Crow had asked for the transfers to GCI. Hamilton died in April of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. When Mack's defense lawyer, James Banks, questioned Crow as to whether her death had resulted from her ties to him, Crow accused him of taking a 'cheap shot.'

Mack was the eighth person convicted in the MANCI corruption investigation. He had been the first to go to trial; he is to be sentenced in August.

Columbus Dispatch

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