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Prison Guard Implicated in Derailing Drug Probe Avoids Prosecution

A former guard at Lebanon Correctional Institution in Ohio will not be prosecuted in connection with allegations that he not only participated in drug and tobacco smuggling into the prison, but accessed a state computer and tipped off other guards who were being investigated, thwarting a five month long investigation.

According to a 120-page investigative report obtained by the Dayton Daily News, Marc Spencer, a 10-year veteran of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC), was accused by investigators with the Ohio State Highway Patrol and ODRC of accessing a state computer on July 29, 2013, and accessing investigation files about a drug dealing and tobacco smuggling ring involving Spencer, fellow guard Melvin McLemore, and two other employees at the Lebanon prison.  Investigators wrote that Spencer was seen on surveillance videos accessing the computer and copying documents.  Spencer's brother, who works at another prison, told investigators that Spencer downloaded the files.

Earlier in June, 2013, state investigators submitted a subpoena for bank statements and phone records of several prison workers, including Spencer and McLemore.  More than $18,000 in cash was deposited in the guards' bank accounts.  When questioned, Spencer said his share came from one of his family members, who happened to be unemployed.

On August 5, 2013, Spencer allegedly dropped off a bag containing two pounds of tobacco in a prison closet, according to state videos and files.  Minutes later, a prisoner retrieved the bag.  When confronted, the prisoner fingered Spencer, saying he paid the guard $500.00 for the contraband.  Spencer's fingerprints were found on the bag, and Spencer said he was likely the victim of a lunch bag theft.

Unable to nail Spencer on the drug charges, the ODRC, in October, 2013, attempted to fire Spencer for both incidents, and cited his absenteeism as a previous problem.  However, the Ohio Civil Services Employees Association defended Spencer.  "Management did not have just cause," a November Union document reads.  "The discipline administered was excessive and does (sic) commensurate with alleged infractions.  Furthermore, management has not provided the Union with ANY valid proof that such actions or infractions occurred."

Incredibly, Spencer avoided being fired and was allowed to resign -- with a $20,000 payout.  While a settlement prohibits Spencer from being rehired, he will not be charged in criminal court for his actions, which "did result in the termination of an active Ohio State Highway Police criminal investigation that had involved numerous resources both in the prison and community," reads the investigative report.

The ODRC claims it is not pleased with the end result.  "The settlement was reached and we're not happy about having to settle," said JoEllen Smith, spokeswoman for the agency.

Fellow guard McLemore abruptly resigned after Spencer accessed the records, investigators say.  Other employees at the Lebanon prison have been convicted of drug charges and other offenses, including Anthony G. Conn, 41, a former lieutenant, who, in January, 2014, was sentenced to at least two years in prison for drug trafficking, steroids charges, and child endangerment.  Fellow guard Brian Bendel, 43, has pleaded guilty to drug trafficking and awaits sentencing, too.



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