by Dale Chappell
The FBI arrested seven people, including five Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC) guards, for conspiring to smuggle drugs, tobacco and cell phones into state prisons.
In January 2017, an undercover FBI agent approached an IDOC contract nurse who had previously been caught smuggling contraband. The nurse put the agent in contact with four guards who could help traffic contraband into IDOC facilities. Guards Richard McCollough, Eric Thompson, Timothy Landon and Robert Wallin all agreed to help with the scheme.
The guards wore their IDOC uniforms during the supposed drug deals to ward off suspicious cops. McCollough and Thompson even brought along their guns during some of the deals. The group intended to smuggle methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin into the prison system.
“The services provided by McCollough, Thompson and Landon included acting as security at what they believed to be drug deliveries and payment dropoffs, weighing drugs, counting money, preparing drugs for delivery, [and] transporting a load of drugs for the drug-trafficking organization,” said U.S. Attorney Bart Davis.
The FBI got involved when IDOC director Henry Atencio complained to the U.S. Attorney’s office that his employees were smuggling drugs. FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric Barnhart said the corruption was “a violation of trust,” because the guards “used their official positions to further their criminal conspiracy.”
All four guards were arrested and taken into custody in April 2018.
In a separate case, former IDOC guard Joshua Barney and former state prisoner Colin McIntyre, along with an accomplice, Tiffany Culbertson, were indicted for conspiring to use a facility to further criminal activity in interstate commerce, plus extortion. They face up to 20 years in federal prison for conspiring to smuggle chewing tobacco and a cell phone into an Idaho state prison.
Corruption in public agencies is “not uncommon,” Barnhart said. “The way [Atencio] handled it, though, is exactly the way we would want any leader to handle it.” After Atencio called in the FBI, the investigation carried on for nine months, accumulating charges. If convicted the guards face a mandatory 10 years to life in prison, while McCollough and Thompson each face an additional five years for firearm-related charges. Barney and McIntyre face up to 20 years for their crimes.
“Holding public officials to account for their wrongdoing is one of the highest priorities of the FBI,” Barnhart stated, “and we will pursue these matter to all lengths.”
Landon, Wallin and Barney have all pleaded guilty and await sentencing.
Sources: www.usnews.com, www.ktvb.com, www.idahostatesman.com, www.kurl8.com
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