Officials: Prison worker busted for drug smuggling

June 19, 2012 • State News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A contract prison worker was caught trying to smuggle cocaine and heroin into a New Mexico prison in what authorities believe was one of the largest drug [auth] busts within the state prison system, corrections officials said Monday.

The woman tried to bring 26 grams of cocaine and 46 grams of heroin into the Southern New Mexico Corrections Facility in Las Cruces, where she worked as a contract food service employee, according to the New Mexico Corrections Department. Her name wasn’t released.

Prison officials made the bust last week after secretly listening to calls between the woman and an inmate who worked in the kitchen and was described as her fiance, said James Mulheron, administrator for the department’s Security Threat Intelligence Unit. Officials identified the inmate as Frank Morales, a 31-year-old serving time for trafficking a controlled substance with intent to distribute.

“It’s crushing,” Mulheron said at a news conference. “Any time you have someone inside the prison system working to smuggle in drugs, it compromises the safety of our facilities.”

The drugs’ estimated value in prison was $5,000, officials said.

Mulheron said the woman has yet to be formally charged but that she’ll face six felony counts related to drug trafficking. Morales also faces charges, Mulheron said.

It was unclear if Morales had hired an attorney.

The pair may have successfully smuggled drugs into prison at least once, Mulheron said.

Mulheron said cocaine and heroin busts at New Mexico prisons normally involve a gram or less.

The busts come as New Mexico prisons report a large jump in inmates and family members trying to smuggle Suboxone into jails. A drug that treats opiate addiction, Suboxone gives inmates and intense high and is being smuggling into prisons via envelopes, stamps and children’s drawings.

New Mexico prison officials are training guards how to look for drugs in the mail and during inmate visits and other interactions. Officials said they also are looking into new technology to help spot the drug, though they were reluctant to give details over fears that inmates may try to circumvent new efforts.

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