5 Angola COs among 22 indicted in large-scale drug smuggling probe

The indictment describes how inmates spoke openly on recorded prison phone lines about drug shipments and coordinated how to get them into the facility

By Youssef Rddad
The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.

WEST FELICIANA PARISH, La. — A federal grand jury indicted nearly two dozen people accused of smuggling large amounts of drugs into the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, including five former guards and several inmates, according to documents unsealed Tuesday.

Twenty-two people were indicted on conspiracy and drug trafficking charges following a federal and state investigation aimed at curbing marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamines that were being brought into the state's largest prison through postal mail and prison staff.

Authorities described the operation as "large-scale," and court documents list four people arrested in southern California who allegedly supplied drug shipments to Louisiana.

"We will continue our work with federal, state, and local law enforcement, throughout the country, to dismantle criminal networks, and bring offenders to justice in order to protect our citizens and promote respect for the law," said U.S. Attorney Brandon J. Fremin in a statement Tuesday.

The indictment describes how inmates spoke openly on recorded prison phone lines about drug shipments and coordinated how to get them into the facility. In one instance, an inmate allegedly arranged for someone to bring a package of drugs to the prison during the Angola Prison Rodeo this April.

Prosecutors also allege at least five former prison guards smuggled drugs into the facility and delivered them to inmates for money.

The former officers are:

Jeffery Day, 34.

Tommy Carter, Jr., 31.

April Mathews, 25.

Precious Shelvin, 33.

Tichina Williams, 24.

The five face felony counts of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. Carter was indicted on possession and intending to sell more than 50 grams of meth.

Online court records didn't list attorneys representing the prison guards to comment on the indictment.

Angola has seen a wave of employee arrests and resignations in recent months. In the last year, more than 40 correctional officers and an ex-nurse have been arrested for a range of offenses, including bringing in contraband and drugs, as well as having inappropriate relationships with inmates.

Department of Public Safety and Corrections Secretary Jimmy Le Blanc said Tuesday that the latest indictment shows a violation of public trust.

"This is not a reflection of the many hard working men and women in our Department who are dedicated to keeping our prisons and our public safe," he said.

The U.S. Attorney's Office didn't have an estimate for the total amount of drugs authorities believe the alleged network brought into Angola. But the indictment details dozens of instances in which inmates coordinated deliveries and drug payments at the prison.

Fremin said seven Angola inmates who were indicted are currently serving lengthy sentences, including life.

The Angola inmates who were indicted on federal drug charges as a result of the probe were:

Anthony Basaldua, 41.

Deanthony Ford, 32.

Nelson Tippen, 39.

Kevin Narcisse, 34.

Dudley Melancon, 31.

Joshua Gonzalez, 35.

Jared Graham, 30

In addition to the five former prison guards and seven Angola inmates, 10 others were indicted in the federal drug smuggling investigation. They are:

Michael Augustine, 39, of Erath.

Xavier Johnson, 34, of Baton Rouge.

Manuel Cadena, 38, of Colton, California.

Michael Cadena, 29, of Hesperia, California.

Edgar Ochoa, 35, of Riverside, California.

Ismael Ochoa, 32, of Riverside, California.

Quindale Smothers, 23, of Lafayette.

Eryka Daniels, 35, of Baton Rouge.

Adrienne Capizzo, 32, of Westwego.

Evelyn Valdes, 42, of Denham Springs.

©2019 The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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