GREEN COVE SPRINGS – A three-month investigation by security officers at the Clay County Jail has uncovered a ring accused of smuggling contraband into the pre-trial center at the request of inmates.
As the investigation broadened, Clay County Sheriff’s Office officials found that the contraband was also being concealed at at least three different county sites where it would be picked up by inmate trustees and taken back to the jail for consumption.
"There were batteries, pills, cocaine, cigarettes, lighters, dip tobacco, razor blades and other items being found that caused concern regarding the safety and security of the inmates and staff," stated CCSO Public Information Coordinator Mary Justino in a prepared statement. "Items were hidden in lobby bathrooms and visitation bathrooms from page 1
by visitors and later picked up by trustees who cleaned those areas."
Officers first noticed an increase in the amount of contraband entering the jail in November 2012. Justino said items were concealed under U.S. Postage stamps, behind photos and in letters sent to inmates. But other smuggled items involved a detailed network of crime.
Phone calls in and out of the jail between inmates and family members led to an intriguing string of locales used to hide the forbidden items. Clay County Animal Care and Control, the Clay County Agricultural Center and the CCSO vehicle maintenance facility – all places where trusted jail inmates are transported and supervised to perform such tasks as janitorial work – became drop-off and pick-up points for the ring.
"Jail Security Sgt. Jimmy Deese was instrumental initially in gathering intelligence about the contraband – who was bringing it in, where it was being dropped off and what was going on with it once it got into the jail," Justino stated. "While there are occasional contraband issues we deal with, Sergeant Deese’s initial investigation indicated there was a bigger issue that needed immediate attention."
Once the responsible inmates were identified, jail security staff conducted jail cell searches to find, collect and destroy contraband in hopes of stopping its entry into the facility. Extensive searches of all cell blocks, laundry room area, trustee change-out area, recreation yards, multipurpose rooms, visitation restrooms and outside dumpsters and loading dock areas were conducted by a team headed by Lt. Terry Arnold, Justino said.
The searches were paired with strategic surveillance, which led to the arrest of five people from both inside the jail and from the street. Justino said, as the investigation continues, they expect more arrests in the case. In the interim, a system of stepped up jail cell searches has been put in place to head off future similar incidents.
Part of the investigation involved officers going back into the files and listening to the recorded phone calls made by suspected inmates. Daniel Roscoe Reese, 42, of Jacksonville, was an inmate between Oct. 18 and Oct. 26, 2012 during which time he called Kimbery Dane Fout, 40, his live-in girlfriend at the time. According to the police report, Fout and Reese discussed how she would drop contraband items at different areas within the county so jail trustees would pick them up.
"During one conversation [Reese] explains to [Fout] how to retrieve $100 from inmate Adam Leys’ inmate account for the purchase of illegal narcotics that she would be dropping off at one of the predetermined locations in the future," stated the report.
Reese was officially charged in connection with the ring on Dec. 20, while Fout was charged on Jan. 8. Ley, 25, of Orange Park was also charged on Dec. 20.
Keith Allen Ysbrand, 22, of Green Cove Springs, was arrested Feb. 13 and charged with one count of conspiracy and solicitation to commit a criminal act, burglary and selling marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school. CCSO officials said Ysbrand conspired with his girlfriend, Kristi Ann Bowman, 26, of Green Cove Springs to drop off $700 worth of pills at Animal Control and the Fairgrounds. Ysbrand, at press time, remained in jail, while Bowman has been released on bond.
"In general, there was a group of inmates – the men – who knew each other and had girlfriends who knew each other outside of jail," Justino said. "They conspired over the course of time to stage these illegal contraband drops. Our detectives were able to gather intel about their conversations and plans from other inmates and by listening to their recorded phone conversations."
The latest arrest occurred Feb. 14 when officers charged Tara Luann Epps, 28, of Jacksonville for smuggling contraband into the jail for inmate Reginald Rasheem Young, 31, of Jacksonville. According to CCSO records, Young made six phone calls to Epps on Oct. 1 and Oct. 2 to set up a way to smuggle sleeping pills, alcohol and other contraband to the jail via Animal Control.
Epps, Fout, Ley, Reese and Young were all charged with one count each of conspiracy and solicitation to commit a criminal act, which is a third degree felony under state law. All have been released on bond, but as the investigation continues, Justino said, more arrests are possible.
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