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News in Brief

Alabama: On November 1, 2023, charges were dismissed against former Mobile County Metro Jail guard Kimberly Henderson, 32. WPMI in Mobile reported that a judge found not enough probable cause to send the case to a grand jury. As PLN reported, Henderson was accused of sneaking a cellphone into the jail and arrested on September 13, 2023, weeks after her friend and fellow guard, Jessica Odom, was arrested for smuggling fentanyl into the lockup. [See: PLN, Nov. 2023, p.63.] Henderson received her termination paperwork after the deadline to appeal the decision and is reportedly having difficulty finding new employment because of her arrest.

California: Miguel Angel Corona, 34, a former guard with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), got six years in prison on November 8, 2023, after pleading no contest to solicitation of murder. The Fresno Bee reported that when police stopped Corona on an unrelated matter, he confessed to hiring felon Bradley Beau Costill, 58, to kill Christopher Schmall, the estranged husband of a prison nurse who was Corona’s girlfriend. The couple was reportedly divorcing amicably, so Schmall and family members were disappointed with the plea deal, hoping for a trial to reveal why Schmall was targeted. Schmall was granted a protective order forbidding Corona from contacting him for 10 years. A similar order was granted against Costill, who was sentenced in August 2023 to three years of probation for his role in the scheme. Schmall’s ex-wife was not charged.

Canada: According to SooToday in Sault Ste. Marie, a prisoner attacked an unnamed guard at Algoma Treatment and Remand Centre in Ontario on November 23, 2023. Harley Beboning, 29, was charged in the assault. The guard’s injuries were reportedly minor. Beboning was kept in custody pending a bail hearing. He is awaiting trial for aggravated assault and forcible confinement after a March 2023 incident that left a 32-year-old man with serious injuries.

Florida: On October 10, 2023, a guard with the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) at the U.S. Penitentiary (USP) in Coleman was arrested on five counts of possession of child pornography. The Villages-News reported that social media app Snapchat relayed information in 2022 to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children regarding an account containing nude images of minor girls registered to “James Griffin.” Ocala Police detectives then linked the account to the guard, Christopher Andrew Mason, 27, who was arrested at home. 

Florida: Arashio Harris, 49, a former guard with the Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department, was sentenced on October 27, 2023, to 18 months in prison and ordered to pay $432,051 in restitution for committing COVID-19 relief fraud. According to the Miami Herald, Sgt. Harris was also owner and president of The Good Family Property Solutions Inc. and Flying Lions LLC when he submitted false and fraudulent applications for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and EIDL advance in April 2020. The federal Small Business Association then issued a $9,000 EIDL advance to Good Family, which did not need to be repaid, as well as $14,500 in EIDL loan proceeds. Harris also got a $150,000 EIDL loan for Flying Lions by wildly overstating its revenue and the number of employees. A few months later, in July 2020, Harris submitted a fraudulent Payment Protection Program (PPP) loan application for Good Family, again overstating its payroll, backing up his claims with several falsified 2019 IRS documents. That resulted in another loan for $129,275. In 2021 Harris successfully repeated the process and secured a second PPP loan of $129,276 for Good Family from a different lender.

Florida: WJXT in Jacksonville reported that in the early morning hours of November 12, 2023, Cashius Edwards, an off-duty guard with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) in the city-county jail system, drove at a “very high rate of speed” into another car, causing it to flip and instantly killing the unnamed occupant. Edwards was injured but recovered. He was arrested and accused of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide, after his brother arrived at the scene and told authorities they had just left a bar. JSO said cops also found a red Solo drink cup in Edwards’ car. Sheriff T.K. Waters suspended the seven-year veteran jail guard without pay. He was the 13th JSO employee arrested in 2023, and the sixth of those arrested for DUI.

Florida: On October 15, 2023, three people were wounded in a stabbing at South Bay Correctional Facility in Palm Beach County. WFLX in West Palm Beach reported that Palm Beach County Fire Rescue units were dispatched to the prison, which is managed by the GEO Group, Inc. for the state. Two victims were airlifted to a local hospital trauma center. Another stabbing at the prison a month earlier sent two prisoners to the trauma center.

Georgia: WSB in Atlanta reported that a BOP guard at USP-Atlanta pleaded guilty on November 3, 2023, to stealing from a prisoner and defrauding a federal COVID-19 relief program. Andy Steven Johnson, 42, worked on the Special Investigative Services team, searching for and seizing contraband from prisoners. After confiscating a prisoner’s cellphone in January 2021, Johnson helped himself to a $300 payment from the prisoner’s Cash App account. Two months later, in March 2021, he also applied for a Paycheck Protection Program loan for a business called Performance Customs, claiming he needed it to protect the firm’s $76,000 in revenue. That proved to be a lie; the business didn’t exist. Nevertheless, he took a $15,832 loan that might have been forgiven had his fraud not been discovered. His sentencing is set for February 2024. 

Georgia: On November 4, 2023, a guard at Banks County Jail was arrested and charged with three felony counts of smuggling contraband to detainees. Online news site Now Habersham reported that Sheriff Carlton Speed asked the state Bureau of Investigation (GBI) to investigate after guard Sammy Reece, 67, was accused of providing contraband to detainees he supervised on work release crews. GBI then found that Reese, a former county commissioner, gave the detainees prescription medication and alcohol and let them use a cellphone.

Georgia: According to WRDW in Augusta, former Augusta State Medical Prison guard Nicole Rosario was arrested on November 9, 2023, while trying to enter the prison with contraband. She was fired from the state DOC, where she had worked since 2021, and was held in the Richmond County Jail on charges of violation of oath by a public officer, giving convicts articles without the consent of the warden and trading with convicts without permission. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that 360 DOC employees have been arrested on accusations of smuggling contraband into state prisons since 2018, and eight out every 10 were women.

Illinois: According to the Belleville News-Democrat, a Pinckneyville Correctional Center guard pleaded guilty to one count of deprivation of civil rights under color of law on November 8, 2023, for failing to intervene in the savage beating of a restrained prisoner. As PLN reported, the prisoner, identified as “J.T.,” was in leg irons and handcuffed in April 2022 when Lt. Mark Maxwell, 52, watched his beat-down by guards Cord A. Williams, 35, and Christian L. Pyles, 25; they both pleaded guilty in July and November 2023, respectively. [See: PLN, Nov. 2023, p.63.] J.T. was left with a fractured orbital socket, a partially collapsed lung and needed 25 stitches to close lacerations to his face. Though the incident started when he punched a guard trying to intervene in a dispute between J.T. and a fellow prisoner, he was not still combative when they assaulted him, as the guards lied in their official reports. They now face up to 10 years in prison.

Kentucky: Mason Johnson, 22, a former guard at Larue County Detention Center, was charged on November 21, 2023, with possession of booby trap devices, the use of a weapon of mass destruction in the third degree, attempted murder, attempted kidnapping, violation of Kentucky emergency protective order and impersonating a law enforcement agent. According to Law&Crime, Johnson used flashing blue lights and other police equipment in his car to try to pull over another vehicle on November 19, 2023. A complaint about the unlawful traffic stop prompted an investigation that uncovered an arsenal of weapons in the home Johnson shared with his parents: a bomb, booby traps, guns, body armor and even a spike strip. In addition, police found detailed plans to kidnap Johnson’s ex-girlfriend and murder a man.

Kentucky: Hannah Hardy, 34, was awaiting trial on arson and wanton endangerment charges in custody of Louisville Metro DOC when she allegedly spat in a guard’s eye on Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 2023, WLKY in Louisville reported. The unnamed guard went to a hospital for evaluation, and Hardy got an additional charge of assaulting a peace officer. She was arrested in February 2023 after admitting to torching a home with two people inside; both escaped on their own. She was earlier arrested in Maryland in 2021 after Calvert County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) deputies pulled over her vehicle and she crashed it into their patrol car. CCSO Dep. Anthony Aranda said she told him “she was just trying to go to Myrtle Beach [South Carolina] and we needed to stop abusing her,” the Maryland Independent reported at the time. WAVE in Louisville said Hardy was also arrested in 2017 after breaking four windows of a car she mistakenly thought belonged to a man she met online, scratching her name into the driver’s side door and causing $6,000 in damages. She was charged in 2011 with driving the wrong way on I-65 two years earlier and crashing head-on into a tractor-trailer, hospitalizing her with “serious injuries.”

Kentucky: Ryan O. Elliott, a former BOP guard lieutenant at USP Big Sandy, pleaded guilty on November 21, 2023, to twice violating prisoners’ rights and falsifying records, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported. The first incident happened on March 26, 2021, when he witnessed a fellow guard lieutenant kick a prisoner in the shin without justification and then tackled the prisoner himself, punching him several times. Elliott later wrote a false report about the incident at the behest of his comrade. The other incident occurred the next month, when Elliot saw another prisoner escorted from the same lieutenant’s office and, though he assumed the man had been assaulted by the guard, Elliott again agreed to write another false report in which he claimed the prisoner provoked the assault. Elliott agreed to a sentence of at least 33 months.

Maine: According to the Lewiston Sun Journal, Maine State Police and officials with the state DOC were investigating the death of prisoner Trevor M. Saunders, 25, who was found unresponsive in the Androscoggin County Jail on November 18, 2023. He was serving 45 days for driving after losing the privilege for repeated motor vehicle violations, including DUI. Officials didn’t consider his death suspicious but were awaiting a toxicology report from the medical examiner. The young dad had previously suffered a spinal stroke in March 2022.

Maryland: On November 17, 2023, a former guard with the Prince George’s County DOC was sentenced to four months imprisonment followed by four months of home detention and another 32 months of supervised release for conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance. As previously reported by PLN, Danielle Dominique Smith, 34, was employed by DOC when she carried on a sexual relationship with detainee Avante Daquan Lee, 30, from June 2021 until her March 2022 arrest and suspension for conspiring with him to smuggle Suboxone and K2 into the jail. [See: PLN, Sep. 2022, p.63.] Lee pleaded guilty in September 2021 to being a felon in possession of a firearm, but he remained at the county jail awaiting sentencing and transfer to BOP custody to serve a three-year sentence.

Michigan: According to WJRT in Flint, a former guard with the state DOC was charged on September 29, 2023, with smuggling drugs into St. Louis Correctional Facility. Allegedly conspiring with a murderer imprisoned there, Kernef Jackson, 61, had just met with an unincarcerated accomplice when his vehicle was pulled over and cops found methamphetamine, opioids and marijuana inside. He was suspended without pay and charged, along with the unnamed woman. The prisoner, Gregory A. Jones, 43, was serving 33 to 50 years for a 2008 second-degree murder conviction. He faces two new drug charges, including conspiracy.

Missouri: On November 7, 2023, Jefferson City Correctional Center guard Paul Emerson Schofield, 35, and his wife Sara Ellen Schofield, 30, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to produce child pornography and one count of producing child pornography. KRCG in Bloomfield reported that an April 2022 tip to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children prompted an investigation that determined that Paul Schofield had uploaded kiddie porn to social media. Police then searched the couple’s home and recovered videos in which they sexually assaulted an unconscious child under age 12. They now face 30 to 40 years in federal prison.

Missouri: On November 17, 2023, Newton County Jail guard Correy Shrum, 32, was fired and charged with smuggling drugs into the lockup. KSNF in Joplin reported that an investigation began after suspicious phone calls were recorded between a jail detainee and his girlfriend. Investigators then found jail surveillance video that captured Shrum handing items to the detainee. The guard, who was employed at the lockup less than a year, admitted giving the unnamed detainee drugs in exchange for a $1,700 bribe. The month before, on October 12, 2023, South Central Correctional Center guard Trishana Barton, 23, was also arrested and fired from the state DOC, after she was caught attempting to smuggle more than 100 grams of meth in 7-UP cans into the lockup in November 2022. Ozark Radio News reported that a guard sergeant at the prison noticed the altered soda cans and found they contained a crystal white substance. Shrum is being held without bond. Barton’s bond was reduced to $15,000 in December 2023.

Netherlands: Many workers think of office as a prison, but in Amazon Web Services’ new Haarlem office that’s literally true. According to a November 2023 report by Business Insider, the office opened in 2022 inside the former de Koepel prison, which is ironic in two ways. First, Amazon warehouse workers have reported being worked like a chain gang. De Koepel’s “panopticon” design also points every cell-turned-office toward the building’s center, making it easier to observe prisoners—ahem, workers—without letting them know they’re being watched.

New Hampshire: In October 2023, former Strafford County House of Corrections guard Patrick Schaeffer, 42, was indicted on eight felony counts of abusing his position of authority. He is accused of coercing sex from the detainees in exchange for favors like an extra scoop of peanut butter, Foster’s Daily Democrat reported. An alleged victim, Jennifer Duckworth, went to the newspaper when her complaints to Sheriff Mark Brave went nowhere, she said. Brave is facing embezzlement charges, as reported elsewhere in this issue. [See: PLN, Jan. 2024, p.26.]

New Jersey: NJ Advance Media reported that former Cumberland County Jail guard Neal J. Armstrong, 35, was sentenced to 138 months in state prison on November 3, 2023, for threatening the life of a former detainee if she revealed they struck up a sexual relationship after her release in 2017. The county Prosecutor’s Office said investigators learned the guard exchanged drugs for sexual favors from the unnamed former detainee. In 2018, during the investigation, Armstrong allegedly asked a friend to help delete incriminating messages from his cell phone, which had then been seized. A jury found him guilty of hindering apprehension or prosecution, terroristic threats and simple assault by physical menace.

New Jersey: New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin (D) announced on November 8, 2023, that a state grand jury had recommended criminal charges against former Northern State Prison guard Werner Gramajo, 46, for conspiring with prisoner Thomas “Tommy Two Times” De Vingo, 64, to smuggle cash, jewelry, eyeglasses, clothing, cologne, stamps, food and cold cuts. In exchange, New Jersey Advance Media reported, the guard allegedly subsidized his $79,660 annual salary with bribes that sometimes reached $500 a month.

New York: September 2023 brought a surprise for former Green Haven Correctional Facility guard Taj Everly, 33; expecting probation for sucker-punching a prisoner in the face and then falsely claiming he had been hit first, he was instead sentenced to three months in federal prison, the Lower Hudson Valley Journal News reported. The following month, it was a detainee locked up at Niagara County Correctional Facility who got a surprise; Raymond R. Brooks, 24, had claimed he was sexually assaulted by a guard at the jail, but an investigation determined that was a lie—so he now faces additional charges for the false claim, WGRZ in Buffalo reported.

New York: Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond A. Tierney announced the arrest of Riverhead Correctional Facility guard Jason Middleton, 35, on November 24, 2023. Earlier in 2023, Middleton allegedly escorted a detainee at the county lockup to an area not covered by surveillance cameras and ordered the unnamed detainee to perform oral sex on him, under threat that Middleton would plant contraband in the detainee’s cell if he disobeyed.

New York: On October 31, 2023, Rensselaer County Jail detainee Matthew Fluty was sentenced to 114 months in prison for assaulting a guard at the lockup in January 2023. The unnamed victim reportedly suffered major injuries and lost consciousness, according to WTEN in Albany. Less than two weeks later, another Emprire State detainee was convicted of assaulting a guard at the Cayuga County Jail. Finger Lakes Daily News reported that the unnamed guard was punched several times by detainee Sincere Harrison, 24. After guards subdued Harrison and put him back in a cell, a search of his effects turned up a missing handcuff key. Harrison pleaded guilty on November 13, 2023, to felony counts of promoting prison contraband and assault

New York: On November 2, 2023, Sing Sing Correctional Facility guard Jose Estevez-Luciana, 33, was charged in a scheme to smuggle cellphones and other contraband in exchange for bribes. The Lower Hudson Valley Journal News reported that the eight-year veteran with the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision passed the contraband to prisoner Francis De La Cruz, 24, taking bribes in return over $5,000. The guard was suspended without pay following his arrest. De La Cruz also faces charges in the scheme.

North Carolina: The Asheville Citizen Times reported that former Sullivan County Jail guard John Allen Biggins, 42, was sentenced to 17 years in prison on November 2, 2023, for travelling across state borders to engage in illicit sex with a minor. After release from prison, Biggins must also register as a sex offender during a lifetime of supervised release. An investigation began in June 2022, when undercover agents received messages from someone online named “Bigjohnbiggie.” He expressed interest in having sex with a four-year-old stepdaughter that the undercover agent claimed to have. A month later, Biggins drove from his Tennessee home to Hendersonville, where the undercover agent met and arrested him. Authorities found child pornography in Biggins’ vehicle as well as a semi-automatic pistol.

Ohio: According to The Highland County Press, former Warren Correctional Institution deputy warden Robert Welch, 57, was indicted in October 2023 for theft in office, tampering with records and grand theft. Tampering with state Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (DRC) timeclocks, Welch allegedly recorded more than 350 hours worked during 10 months when he was not at the prison but was instead working a second job as an adjunct college professor. Welch is accused of bilking the state of almost $19,000 in the scheme.

Ohio: On November 7, 2023, former BOP contract guard Nasher Algahim, 38, was sentenced to five months of home confinement followed by 31 months of probation, after pleading guilty to accepting bribes and smuggling contraband into Northeast Ohio Correctional Center (NEOCC) in Youngstown. But first he had tell the court his life story. According to Advance Media Ohio, that began in an abusive household. When he returned from U.S. Air Force Reserve duty in 2017—conducting operations that “aren’t on paper” but “saved hundreds of thousands of lives,” he said—he started working at NEOCC, which is privately operated by CoreCivic for Ohio’s DRC. But he became addicted to opioids prescribed to relieve the back pain from his military service. As his addiction intensified, Algahim’s house fell apart—literally; damages included a collapsed ceiling and a hot water tank explosion. A fellow guard, Terry Terrigno, told Algahim how to get cash for both opioid pills and home repairs: selling baggies of tobacco to prisoners for $500 each. If he found contraband in a prisoner’s cell, he charged $60 to look the other way. An attempt to go straight, by leaving DRC for a BOP job at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Elkton, W.Va. turned south when prisoners there recognized him and threatened Algahim to continue smuggling, describing what his kids wore to school on certain days and leaving bullets in his mother’s carseat. In all, he took $28,500 in bribes, over three times as much as Terrigno, who was sentenced to a year in prison in May 2023, as PLN reported. [See: PLN, Aug. 2023, p.63.] Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Brydle admitted that prosecutors bungled Algahim’s plea agreement by not insisting on some prison time for Algahim.

Oklahoma: Alfredo Valdovinos-Diaz, 45, and Cosme Sanchez-Espino, 41, were already serving time behind bars for drug-related crimes when they were slapped with an additional 11 years on November 3, 2023. KOIN in Portland reported that both men are former Washington residents who continued their drug trafficking conspiracy while behind bars at FCI-Great Plains, where Valdovinos-Diaz has been since 2015 and Sanchez-Espino since 2008. They were indicted on additional charges in 2020 after authorities confiscated 57 pounds of glutethimide and codeine and 25 pounds of methamphetamine from their trafficking ring. Both are Mexican citizens and will most likely be deported once they have served their prison sentences.

Pennsylvania: Three recent attacks on guards in Pennsylvania illustrate the creativity and determination of some prisoners. The Pottsville Republican & Herald reported that Schuylkill County Prison detainee Ashley Virginia Hernandez, 25, was charged with two felony counts of aggravated assault on August 24, 2023, for biting guard Kimberly Shadler on her bicep—while Hernandez was restrained in a hospital bed with leg shackles. Then the Sunbury Daily Item reported that state DOC prisoner Julio Ortiz, 46, is also facing additional time for an attempted homicide charged filed on September 15, 2023, three months after he sliced the face and neck of an unnamed guard at State Correctional Institution in Coal Township using a shiv fashioned from two wooden ice cream spoons with a razor sandwiched between them. Finally, on November 13, 2023, former Blair County Prison detainee Christopher Aikens, 56, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison, WTAJ in Altoona reported. Two years earlier, on November 17, 2021, he took jail guard Rhonda Russell hostage in the county courthouse and used her body as a shield when an Altoona cop, Sgt. George Bistline, attempted to shoot him, fatally striking Russell instead. As PLN reported, Bistline died during the subsequent investigation but was posthumously cleared in 2022. [See: PLN, Sep. 2022, p.64.]

South Carolina: On September 20, 2023, McCormick Correctional Institution prisoner Timothy Darren Sherard Jr., 23, threatened a guard with a shank and raped her, leaving her neck bruised with strangulation marks. He was charged with taking a hostage, first-degree criminal conduct and possession of a weapon during a violent crime, WSPA in Spartanburg reported. He was serving 10 years for false imprisonment and first-degree assault and battery convictions. His December 2023 parole eligibility date will now almost certainly be pushed back.

South Carolina: The State reported that a guard with the state Department of Juvenile Justice was arrested and fired on November 7, 2023, for allegedly providing contraband vape pens to detained minors. Alicia Johnson, 23, faces a sentence up to 10 years and a fine up to $10,000.

Tennessee: WKRN in Nashville reported that former guard Kenan Lister, 43, was sentenced to two years in federal prison on November 1, 2023, after pleading guilty in April 2022 to assaulting a compliant prisoner at Trousdale Turner Correctional Facility, which is privately operated for the state DOC by CoreCivic. As PLN reported, the August 2019 beat-down left prisoner “R.V.” with fractured ribs, but Lister didn’t seek medical help, instead locking him in his cell and filing a report that omitted any mention of the attack. [See: PLN, Apr. 2023, p.23.]

Texas: The Lufkin Daily News reported that former Angelina County Jail guard Blayne Montgomery Wilson, 24, was arrested on November 16, 2023, for smuggling contraband into the lockup. After coworkers heard tobacco was being sold in the jail, an investigation led to Wilson, and he turned himself in. The same month, NBC News reported another smuggler was nabbed at the Harris County Jail in Houston: Defense attorney Ronald Henry Lewis, 77, is accused of being a “major supplier” of narcotics, lacing sheets of paper with ecstasy or synthetic marijuana that he then dispensed during legal visits. Jail Lt. Jay Wheeler said that an investigation commenced in June 2023 when two prisoner deaths were determined to be possibly overdose-related. The investigation concluded that drugs were getting into the prison on soaked paper sheets, for which detainees paid between $250 and $500 each. Lewis was found with multiple sheets on him. After his arrest, he was released on a $15,000 bond.

Vermont: Anthony Fitzgerald, 32, accepted a plea deal in November 2021 to resolve charges arising from a 2021 altercation with a state DOC guard at Northern State Correctional Facility. According to the Newport Dispatch, Fitzgerald was charged with aggravated and simple assault when he stabbed the unnamed guard in the head and abdomen, after a fight that started when Fitzgerald put paper over his door window to block the view into his cell and refused to take it off. A cell extraction team rushed into his cell, and Fitzgerald stabbed one of the guards multiple times. The plea agreement included a sentence of 150 to 190 days, crediting time already served.

Washington: Former King County Jail guard Mosses Ramos was indicted on November 1, 2023, in an alleged scheme to smuggle meth and fentanyl into the lockup. Five others were indicted in the plot, which ran from March to May 2023, when Ramos accepted bribes in exchange for smuggling contraband to a pair of jail detainees. KING in Seattle reported that he worked as a guard for the county Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention for more than 17 years before he was fired in September 2023. If convicted he faces 10 years to life in prison.  

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