14 SCDC employees indicted on bribery, smuggling contraband charges

11 of the former employees were officers

BY KAYLA ROBINS
kayla@theitem.com
Posted 4/26/18

Federal indictments have been unsealed and issued for 14 now-former South Carolina Department of Corrections employees and correction officers on charges related to accepting bribes and bringing contraband into state prisons.

The arrests by the …

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14 SCDC employees indicted on bribery, smuggling contraband charges

11 of the former employees were officers

Posted

Federal indictments have been unsealed and issued for 14 now-former South Carolina Department of Corrections employees and correction officers on charges related to accepting bribes and bringing contraband into state prisons.

The arrests by the FBI were announced Wednesday by U.S. Attorney Beth Drake. According to a news release from the Columbia-based District of South Carolina office, the federal violations, for which the accused have pleaded not guilty, include the use of interstate facilities to facilitate bribery, conspiracy to commit wire fraud depriving South Carolina of the right to honest services and possession with intent to distribute narcotics.

Those reported charges are in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1952, 18 U.S.C. 1349 and 21 U.S.C. 841, respectively.

The accused are: Rachel Burgess, 39; Joshua Cave, 29; Jamal Early, 23; James Harvey, 54; Douglas Hawkins, 29; Robert Hill, 53; Sharon Johnson-Breeland, 29; Darnell Kleckley, 33; Holly Mitchem, 37; Frank Pridgeon, 64; Catherine Prosser, 60; Camille Williams, 65; Miguel Williams, 41; and Shatara Wilson, 29. All defendants were arraigned on their respective indictments on Wednesday, according to the release.

Of the accused, 11 are officers, and the others are food service, grounds and medical staff spanning eight of the state's 21 institutions, according to The Associated Press.

AP reported all of those charged Wednesday have also faced charges in state court and that some have been adjudicated, while others are still pending.

There was no indication of a supposed amount of money involved.

The FBI has partnered with state law enforcement to investigate the smuggling of contraband into prisons by staff at SCDC since 2016. The investigation uncovered a number of SCDC employees who accepted bribes to smuggle contraband, such as cellphones, narcotics or tobacco, into prisons.

Cellphones being smuggled into prisons have been a source of contention, especially after a riot that left seven inmates dead and more than 20 injured in Lee Correctional Institution. SCDC Director Bryan Stirling said then that the fighting was over territory, money and contraband such as cellphones.

SCDC leaders have been asking the FCC to block signals in state prisons.

Joint investigators have also led to the federal convictions of multiple defendants during the last year in two other prosecutions in the Upstate and, most recently, just last week in Columbia.

"This operation signals our joint commitment to prosecute those who abuse their position for personal gain at the cost of the safety of our communities and prisons," Drake said of the operation being a partnership between the FBI, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, SCDC and U.S. Attorney's Office.

The case is assigned for prosecution to Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson and Assistant U.S. Attorney Will Lewis.