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At Least 35 Florida DOC Employees and Contractors Arrested in Just Over a Year

By Jo Ellen Nott

An examination of Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) employee and contractor arrests from March 2021 to April 2022 revealed that 18 were charged with introducing contraband, and another 10 were charged with assaulting prisoners. Six more were charged with having illicit relationships with prisoners under their supervision. One was charged with vehicular homicide.

The most recent arrests occurred on April 28, 2022, when three guards at Dade Correctional Institution were taken into custody on second-degree murder charges for killing a mentally ill prisoner, Ronald Gene Ingram. Allegedly, after the 60-year-old doused them with urine, the three—Ronald Connor, 24, Christopher Rolon, 29, and Kirk Walton, 34—beat him and put him on a prison transport bus, where he was found dead when the bus stopped in Ocala, 345 miles away.

Before that, South Bay Correctional Facility guard Jose Alcazar was arrested on April 11, 2022. The 49-year-old allegedly took $1,600 from an undercover agent to smuggle a pair of SIM cards and 7.8 grams of cocaine into the prison, which is privately operated for DOC by the GEO Group. He also accepted $1,200 as down-payment on a $10,000 fee negotiated in exchange for getting another prisoner relocated and even asked the undercover agent to murder a potential informant if he thought it “better for him to get whacked to leave all of us in peace.”

The four men join 30 more DOC staffers and contractors arrested in just over a year, including:

Cory Michael Young: A guard at Okaloosa Correctional Institution (CI), he was arrested on bribery charges on February 22, 2022, after investigators traced $800 in Cash App transfers he received to prisoners to whom he allegedly smuggled contraband, including cigarettes.

William Hutchinson: A vocational teacher at the Wakulla CI in Crawfordville, he was charged with introduction of contraband and possession of a schedule II-controlled substance on January 20, 2022.

Hilexis Latrice-Devion Diggs: A former guard at Holmes CI, she was arrested on January 13, 2022. She is accused of opening a JPay account under an alias to communicate 138 times with a prisoner in the first two months of 2020 before she was fired in March that year.

Decca Howard Mosley: The guard sergeant at Liberty CI was charged with bribery and conspiracy on January 6, 2022, for allegedly introducing contraband to prisoners in exchange for 78 Cash App money transfers she received between December 2020 and November 2021.

Jason Alexander Barwick and Payton Leigh Smith. The two guards at Calhoun CI were issued a notice to appear on charges of malicious battery on December 29, 2021, for pepper-spraying and kicking an unidentified prisoner—whom video showed was “kneeling to the ground with hands/arms raised and showing no signs of combative behavior”—on May 16, 2021.

Lovette Aubrey Morgan: The Northwest Florida Reception Center (NWFRC) guard was arrested on a warrant signed on November 2, 2021, accusing him of accepting “ICE” (methamphetamine) and “Molly” (MDMA) from “an unknown Black female” at a Dollar General Store in Vernon on seven occasions between January 31 and April 28, 2021, then using text messages to coordinate their delivery to a prisoner equipped with a contraband cellphone.

Ashley Paul: A guard at Suwannee CI Annex, she was arrested on a warrant signed on November 1, 2021, accused of having a sexual relationship with a prisoner and then bribing another prisoner $100 to keep quiet about it. Maybe she needed to pay more.

Zakary Leslie: The Santa Rosa CI guard was arrested for malicious battery and falsifying a state report, under a warrant signed on October 7, 2021. Surveillance video contradicted his incident report to show he kneed an unnamed prisoner in the head four times, two of which he admitted but defended as necessary to bring his victim “into compliance.”

Kadean Scott: A guard at Walton CI, he was arrested on a warrant for contraband and bribery charges signed on October 4, 2021, after a fellow guard overheard him negotiating with a prisoner to smuggle cigarettes for $300 a pack. Scott’s belongings were then searched, and Cash App “tags” and phone numbers were found inside his bible.

Tanaysha Harris: A guard at Hamilton CI Annex, she was arrested on September 30, 2021, when she was charged with gratuitously abusing three unidentified prisoners she took to the prison barber shop and then forced two other prisoners to shave their heads and eyebrows.

Stepheny Roberts: A food service employee at Jackson CI, she was picked up on charges detailed in a probable cause affidavit dated September 23, 2021, after surveillance cameras captured her rubbing the leg of an unnamed prisoner whom she supervised in the prison kitchen. Allegedly using an alias and the address of a Hampton Inn where she once stayed, she opened a JPay account and exchanged over 230 messages with the prisoner from February to August 2021.

Jonathan Callaway: The Everglades CI guard was arrested on contraband and bribery charges on September 21, 2021, after fellow guards manning the prison’s sallyport inspected his belongings and confiscated contraband cell phone accessories and electric hair clippers.

Andrew J. Femmer: The now-fired Santa Rosa CI guard appeared before a federal judge on September 3, 2021, facing charges he assaulted and injured a prisoner before filing a false report in an attempted cover-up.

Taylor Miller: A food service employee at Holmes CI, she was arrested on a warrant signed on August 31, 2021, after an investigation revealed she used an alias to receive $9,477 via Cash App transfers in 43 transactions between September and November 2020, allegedly in exchange for smuggling tobacco and cell phones to prisoners.

Matthew A. Spivey: A guard at Suwanee CI, he was arrested after a pat-down turned up three capsules of methamphetamine on August 10, 2021.

Sara Ellen Byrge: The Jackson CI guard’s illicit relationship with a prisoner came to light thanks to selfies she sent via a JPay account established under an alias. Though investigators couldn’t find evidence of a sexual relationship between the two, they concluded that “their physical contact was of a romantic nature,” according to a probable cause affidavit dated July 13, 2021.

Tachia J. Lawson: An employee of canteen contractor Trinity Services Group at Hardee CI, she arrested on July 1, 2021, after she got past apparently distracted guards at the sallyport despite wearing pants stuffed with two “bombs”—packages containing a carton of cigarettes and THC—before another guard finally spotted the bulges. A pat-down then revealed the contraband, which she claimed a prisoner had intimidated her into smuggling.  

Samantha Boykin: In a probable cause affidavit dated June 21, 2021, the NWFRC guard was accused of prolific smuggling on more than 60 occasions over a 12-month period ending in March 2021. After a prisoner revealed Boykin was ferrying cellphones and drugs into the lockup—allegedly, she once delivered a pound of marijuana over the course of a few weeks—investigators found her Cash App account tagged “$MZCHERRYLUV” had received $19,411 from accounts traced to current and former prisoners.

Krystal Sanders: A certified nursing assistant at Jackson CI employed by healthcare contractor Centurion of Florida, she was arrested on a warrant signed on June 14, 2021, after allegedly setting up a phony JPay account to send an unnamed prisoner messages that were “romantic and sexually explicit in nature.” It all ended in November 2020 when Sanders sent a selfie that was recognized by a guard reviewing the prisoner’s messages.

Javeous Jackson: A former Wakulla CI guard, he was arrested the first week of June 2021 on a vehicular homicide charge. His employment ended after a wreck on March 15, 2021, when Jackson drove his vehicle at 78 mph into a 65-year-old pedestrian, Melvin Gilliam.    

Jesica Y. Nelson: Another guard at Jackson CI, she was the subject of a probable cause affidavit dated May 10, 2021, detailing how she used a bogus JPay account to engage in unauthorized communication with two prisoners, one of whom was her uncle.

Michael C. Daniels: According to a probable cause affidavit dated April 30, 2021, the guard sergeant at Franklin CI was accused by an unnamed prisoner of smuggling contraband, leading to the discovery of cellphones illegally held by two prisoners, each with text messages from Daniels’ phone. One text advised there were “dogs at door.”

Jarvaneschia Wiggins: In an arrest warrant issued on April 22, 2021, the Jackson CI guard was accused of taking $1,600 in bribes in exchange for providing a contraband cellphone to a prisoner, whose number was found stored on her cellphone under the name “My King.”

Charles O. “Coop” Cooper, Jr.: In a probable cause affidavit dated April 21, 2021, the Holmes CI guard was accused of taking at least $1,150 in bribes from friends or family members of a half-dozen prisoners in spring 2019, after which Cooper smuggled tobacco, marijuana and cellphones to them, often using a wastebasket from the guards’ station.

Michael C. Harris: The Suwanee CI guard was charged with aggravated assault on April 15, 2021, after surveillance video captured him threatening prisoners with a loaded firearm “while yelling derogatory and racial comments” at them.

Margaret Hammond: A guard at Okeechobee CI, she was arrested on contraband-smuggling charges on April 3, 2021, after a fellow guard noticed her heavy bag of chips and opened it, finding inside four big balls of methamphetamine.

Leslie Spencer: The Charlotte CI guard was arrested on March 31, 2021, on contraband charges to which he pleaded guilty on September 9 that year. He was nabbed in a sting at a store parking lot near the prison with methamphetamine, MDMA or “Molly,” synthetic marijuana and two cellphones he had agreed to smuggle to prisoners for $400.

Shaniqua L. Jackson: The arrest warrant issued for her on March 23, 2021, followed a lengthy investigation prompted 18 months earlier when fellow guards at Apalachee CI caught her using a wastebasket to smuggle drugs to a prisoner. Investigators eventually traced $8,240 she received in Western Union and Cash App transfers to prisoners or their families.

Rockelle Sanders: A guard trainee at Graceville Work Camp, she was arrested on a warrant dated March 15, 2021, having resigned the previous August when a suspicious-looking new JPay account was traced to her, and it was discovered she had an “inappropriate relationship” with a prisoner.

Joshua Sosa: DOC announced the guard’s arrest on March 5, 2021, after video revealed he slammed an unnamed prisoner “head-first onto the concrete floor” at Suwanee CI. That also put the lie to Sosa’s claim that the prisoner had attacked another prisoner, necessitating the vicious response.

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