Jail contraband ring busted

At a 2 p.m. press conference today, Sheriff David Morgan reported that his investigators, head by Zack Ward, busted a ring that dealt in tobacco, food, marijuana and sex. Inmates on custodial duty in the ECSO buildings paid from a rate sheet for each of this contraband items. Inmates paid $25 for sex in a ECSO bathroom or $100+ for change of clothes and being allowed to leave the ECSO property.

Ten persons are being arrested. One former detention deputy, Kristopher Wade (age 26), and ECSO Custodial Worker Tracey S. Belton (age 44) are the only two county employees charged. The six are inmate and two are civilians.

One of the civilians is Walter “Dirty Red” Grandison, the father of Jamel Lee – who was acquitted last year of the murder of Fifteen-year-old Daryl Williams.

Sheriff Morgan says this investigation showed that the contraband ring went back as far as September 2009, but they suspect that it has been some form for years. Belton has worked with the ECSO since 1991.

The sheriff said the March 2010 arrest of Wade for smuggling a cell phone to a juvenile inmate in exchange for $25 is what triggered further investigation. Inmates were complaining that they had paid for contraband, but had received it. Also one former inmate, Lakesha Sheryl Pollie, told investigators that she had been become pregnant during a sexual encounter while she was an inmate. She is now seven months pregnant. Pollie has been rearrested for violation of probation.

Wade has now been charged with unlawful compensation and required to get an additional $10,000 bond.

The inmates involved in this ring were part of the inmate worker program. Capt. Barbara Wertz, head of the Escambia Co. Jail, explained to me that inmates apply to Classifications for approval to be an inmate worker. There are two types of inmate workers: those allowed to only work in the jail itself or Central Booking and those who can work outside the jail on road crews and custodial work.

Those involved in this ring were outside custodial workers, who are considered low risk.

Sheriff Morgan reaffirmed that he and his command staff have zero tolerance for corruption and misconduct. We will not look the other way when it is discovered or brought to our attention.

Morgan did believe part of the blame for this and incidents like the alleged embezzlement by Cathy Lister are due to the “almost non-existent” hiring practices of prior administrations.

“They took a lax approach and did no background checks.” Morgan also said that hiring was done at times not on qualifications, but who you knew.

Morgan also talked about contraband being a constant battle for the jail. He told of inmates that would have friends and family mail them cards that have been doused with drugs. The cards are microwaved so the drug will crystallize and placed in an envelope. The inmate can then wet the card and use the drugs.

Tracy Belton (44): Aiding an escape and unlawful compensation, bond $10K; Introduction of Contraband, Bond $5K

Walter Grandison (41): Aiding an escape

Lakesha Pollie (33): VOP, Escape, Introduction of Contraband- Bond $5K

Kristopher Wade (26): Introduction of Contraband, Unlawful Compensation

Kenneth Jerome Eriby (19): (currently in jail for Aggravated Assault) Introduction of Contraband (6 cts)

Terrance Jeffrey Tillman (35): (currently in jail for Narcotic Violations) Introduction of Contraband

Peter Foster Wahkelek, Jr. (19): (currently in jail for Narcotic Violations, VOP) Introduction of Contraband

Tevin Errington Jenkins (17): (currently in jail for Aggravated Assault, weapons violations) Introduction of Contraband

Dondeaio Hosea, Jr. (21): (currently in jail for Burglary, Theft) Introduction of Contraband

Aquanelia Keyiona Salter (18): Introduction of Contraband