Accused of supplying federal inmates with contraband items such as cell phones, marijuana and tobacco in return for cash, 13 Ector County Correctional Center employees have been indicted on federal charges of bribery.
According to a U.S. Department of Justice news release, 12 federal jail guards and one food service worker were arrested and each indicted on one bribery charge in connection with the accusations.
During 2011 and 2012, according to the release, those employees gave cell phones, charges, tobacco and marijuana in exchange for cash.
If convicted, each person faces up to 15 years in federal prison and a maximum $250,000, according to the release.
The Ector County Correctional Center is a federal lockup facility located in the Ector County Courthouse. The space is rented by Community Education Centers to house arrestees of federal crimes.
Ector County Judge Susan Redford said CEC bought out Civigenics, which has rented the space for the facility for around 15 years.
“I’m stunned. We’ve had a really good working relationship with Community Education Centers,” Redford said. “I think we’re going to have some conversations with management to see what’s being done.”
Redford said the question arises as to whether such activity puts employees of the courthouse at risk, which is something that will have to be evaluated. The jail occupies a section of the east side of the courthouse.
According to a news release issued by Community Education Centers, and labeled as attributable to Warden Linvel Mosby at the ECCC, the company worked closely with law enforcement when notified of the accusations.
“At the first appropriate opportunity, those at issue were immediately terminated from employment with the company. The ongoing challenge of contraband prevention is a daily reality for every correctional facility and one that the company takes very seriously,” according to the news release. “Public safety, as well as the safety of our staff, inmates and residents, is always a primary concern at every one of our facilities, therefore we work hard to ensure that goal is met.”
Spokesman Christopher Greeder with Community Education Centers said he would not comment further than what the news release stated, and would not confirm factual information such as total number of employees and dates when employees were fired.
The facility has had several problems in the past, as Colby Miller sued the facility in 2009, stating that a guard allowed another inmate to obtain a broomstick, which was later used to strike him in the eye.
The case has since been dismissed in federal court.
A former ECCC employee was charged in 2008 on the accusation that he smuggled marijuana and a cell phone into the facility in exchange for cash.
Andrew Allen Zehr pleaded guilty in the case and was sentenced to six months in federal prison and three years of supervised release after that term.
Nine of the employees were from Odessa, with one from Austin, one from Monahans, one from Andrews and one from Crane.
Jovanna Marie Olivarez, 21; Matthew Ryan Williams, 20; Charlette Smith, 46; Nancy Torres Morales, 36; Valeria Ann Arenivas, 22; Gabriel Angel Navarette, 23; Jennifer Armida Lopez, 25; Jazmine Desiree Cruz, 19; and Jonathon Wayne Meza, 29, were the employees arrested from Odessa.
Dennis Earl Newsome, 63, is from Austin, Jessica Lucia Smith, 33, is from Monahans, Barbara Jean Garrett, 52, is from Andrews, and Ashley Dawn Clark, 29, is from Crane.
Odessa spokeswoman Andrea Goodson said the contract between the city and Geo Group for the federal lockup at the Odessa Police Department was not renewed in November.