PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Smugglers are always looking for creative ways to get drugs to prisoners behind bars and federal prosecutors say they’ve broken up a ring with a new twist. Multiple people have been indicted for a scheme to use the name and office of an Allegheny County Common Pleas judge to get synthetic marijuana to inmates inside state prisons.
In a federal indictment unsealed Monday, inmates Rodney Howard and Dustin Hill along with DeAndre Jackson are facing multiple drug-related charges in the alleged scheme.READ MORE: 'We Feel There Is Enough Evidence:' Family Of Codi Joyce Calling For Grand Jury In Their Son's Death
“Used that scheme to get 30 pages of ‘legal mail’ soaked with synthetic cannabinoids into the state prison in Dallas, Pennsylvania,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Steve Kaufman.
Kaufman says outside the prisons, Jackson would send the envelopes of fake legal papers soaked in the drugs to inmates Hill and Howard inside.
One was made to look as though it came from the Allegheny County Courthouse and the courtroom of Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Manning. Manning had no idea his authority was being used. Legal mail sent to inmates is a privileged matter between attorneys and inmates but must be opened in front of prison staff, who this time became sick when it was opened.READ MORE: Duquesne University Extends President Dr. Ken Gormley's Contract
“The two staff members immediately became dizzy, nauseous, sick because they were soaked in cannabinoids and had to go to the hospitalized for treatment,” said Kaufman.
Prosecutors say one piece of paper could go for up to $14,000 in prison.
The discovery of the drugs led to further investigation which the feds say revealed the three and a fourth defendant, Rodneka Howard, had engaged in another scheme to defraud Pandemic Unemployment Assistance by filing for and receiving unemployment in the name of ineligible inmates. The money, according to Kaufman, was used to further their crimes.
“And what makes this case double troubling is the same people were committing Pandemic Unemployment Assistance fraud and actually used some of the proceeds from the fraud scheme to pay for the postage of this phony mail that had the drugs in it,” said Kaufman.MORE NEWS: Seaplane Lands On Allegheny River Outside Of Heinz Field
Both Jackson and Rodneka Howard are in jail without bond. Rodney Howard and Hill are now looking at longer stints in prison.