Crime

Jackson County jail guards took bribes to smuggle contraband, feds allege

Jackson County jail target of early morning search

Around two hundred law enforcement officers from several agencies searched the Jackson County Detention Center in Kansas City for several hours on the morning of June 26, 2017, as part of an ongoing investigation.
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Around two hundred law enforcement officers from several agencies searched the Jackson County Detention Center in Kansas City for several hours on the morning of June 26, 2017, as part of an ongoing investigation.

Guards accepted hundreds of dollars in bribes for smuggling contraband cellphones, cigarettes and drugs into the Jackson County Detention Center, according to federal charges unsealed Monday in the wake of an early morning raid at the jail.

Two guards, a jail inmate and an alleged fixer on the outside were charged in two separate schemes. The cost of smuggling cellphones into the downtown Kansas City jail ranged from $100 to $500, according to court documents. Cigarettes: as much as $25 a pack.

In the first scheme, one guard allegedly smuggled in a phone and offered to grant a detainee who was acting as a government informant the exclusive right to receive smuggled narcotics, cigarettes and phones on his floor. The guard’s proposed fee was $2,500 a month, authorities allege.

In a separate scheme, a guard and the inmate arranged with the alleged fixer to smuggle in contraband, prosecutors said. The guard was pregnant with the inmate’s child at the time.

Charges against the four — the latest accusations stemming from a broader federal 2015 investigation into the jail — were filed last week under seal. Charging documents were made public after the four were arrested. Those court filings were unsealed several hours after 200 law enforcement officers from multiple agencies arrived on buses outside the Jackson County Detention Center early Monday and searched the facility for more than four hours.

Guard Andre Lamonte Dickerson, 26, of Kansas City, is accused in the first scheme.

Charged in the second scheme were guard Jalee Caprice Fuller, 29, of Independence, and inmate Carlos Laron Hughley, 32, allegedly the father of Fuller’s recently born baby. Janikkia Lashay Carter, 36, is accused of being a go-between on the outside who arranged for the transfer of contraband into the facility. Hughley and Carter are from Kansas City.

Along with the charges, federal prosecutors filed motions seeking to have all four defendants held in custody without bond.

In the case of Dickerson and Fuller, prosecutors said that their alleged criminal activity jeopardized the safety of “honest corrections officers” and compromised inmate safety.

“Both defendants took money in exchange for disregarding their duties as corrections officers,” Deputy U.S. Attorney Gene Porter wrote in a motion for detention. “Both defendants acted in concert with others as they placed personal financial gain above their obligation to provide honest and faithful service as a corrections officer.”

But when Fuller and Carter made their initial appearances Monday morning in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Porter said the government was withdrawing its request for their pretrial detention. They were ordered released on personal recognizance.

Dickerson and Hughley made their initial court hearings Monday afternoon, and prosecutors are still seeking to have them detained.

Because Hughley is being held already on other charges, he would not qualify for bond in the new case. A hearing to determine if bond will be set in Dickerson’s case was scheduled for Thursday.

A preliminary hearing for all four is set for Thursday.

They face a maximum sentence of five years in prison, if convicted of the charge, which alleges the use of a telephone with the intent to facilitate unlawful activity.

During the court appearances Monday, Porter said that authorities obtained a “substantial” number of recorded phone calls during the investigation. Arrangements to smuggle in cellphones were conducted over land lines inmates have permission to use at the jail, which are routinely monitored.

The arrests are the latest outgrowth of a two-year federal investigation that initially focused on guards’ use of excessive force on inmates. Five former guards were accused of brutalizing prisoners in those cases. Four are awaiting trial, and charges against the fifth former guard were dismissed after two trials ended in hung juries.

Since then, the probe has expanded to other issues. Security concerns at the jail were heightened last summer after two women reported being raped inside the jail by male inmates who were able to roam free for hours in the middle of the night.

Jackson County Executive Frank White and County Legislature officials have since hired three sets of consultants to evaluate all aspects of the facility and operations.

In a prepared statement, White said that one of the corrections officers charged in the smuggling case “is no longer employed” at the jail, and the other is on unpaid administrative leave, without specifying them by name.

“We have dedicated and well-trained associates working hard inside the jail each and every day, but we must hold those who are breaking the rules accountable if we want to make forward progress,” he said. “We will not tolerate such reckless behavior.”

The latest investigation was conducted by an FBI agent on temporary assignment from the bureau’s Los Angeles office and a Jackson County sheriff’s investigator. Two informants, one inside the jail and one outside, helped with the stings. According to the complaint, the agent arrived in April primarily to investigate allegations of abuse and corruption by Jackson County correctional officers.

Reports of shocking brutality, filth and incompetence within the walls of the Jackson County Detention Center have sparked multiple investigations and no shortage of controversy.

According to the criminal complaint opened Monday, Fuller was pregnant with Hughley’s child while she was a corrections officer and he was an inmate at the jail. They were both acquainted with Carter, who allegedly recently helped arrange to have a cellphone smuggled into the jail for $300.

Authorities said Fuller delivered it to an informant in a paper bag on May 23. The bag also contained Xanax pills, which Hughley allegedly took.

According to Jackson County Circuit Court records, Hughley is being held in the jail on charges of domestic assault, armed criminal action, drug possession and resisting arrest.

Last year, he was placed on probation in a drug distribution case, and prosecutors have filed a motion to have his probation revoked, according to court records.

Dickerson allegedly charged $500 to smuggle in a phone, phone charger and two packs of Newport cigarettes. According to authorities, he solicited a $2,500 monthly fee to give an inmate acting as an informant exclusive rights to receive contraband on the jail’s fifth floor.

This isn’t the first time that guards have been accused of supplying drugs to detainees at the detention center. In a lawsuit filed last month, a former inmate said a guard failed to intervene while he was being raped by another male inmate. The victim said his attack was interrupted temporarily by the guard, who came to the pod door and slipped a bag of white powder to the attacker.

According to an attorney for the alleged rape victim, the unnamed corrections officer was “well known at the detention center as a ‘drug mule’ who would routinely provide drugs and other outside contraband to prisoners.”

Officials would not speculate on whether further charges will be filed as a result of Monday’s search operation. Kansas City police officers, FBI agents and Jackson County sheriff’s deputies arrived at the detention center shortly after 3 a.m.

As the search wound down, Darrin Jones, FBI special agent in charge of the Kansas City office, told reporters on the sidewalk outside the jail that it was a coordinated operation, but declined to give further details other than it was “pursuant to an ongoing investigation.”

Flanked by Sheriff Mike Sharp, Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker and Joe Piccinini, the head of the detention center, Jones said it was wrong to characterize the operation as a raid.

“While this was no doubt a surprise to a great number of the occupants in this facility,” Jones said, “it was very carefully coordinated” with jail staff and other agencies.

Sharp thanked the Missouri departments of correction and public safety for their help with the operation.

The jail that occupies the top floors of the Jackson County Courthouse in Kansas City has not been used for nearly 40 years, but images from the archives of The Kansas City Star show how the facility got a reputation as a place where no one wanted

Mike Hendricks: 816-234-4738, @kcmikehendricks

Tony Rizzo: 816-234-4435, @trizzkc

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