Trustees arrested for contraband

Published 1:32 pm Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cell phones were found in the Pearl River County Jail that allegedly were brought in by Mississippi Department of Corrections trustee inmates.

Confidential information was provided on April 21 to Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department personnel alleging that two trustee inmates would attempt to smuggle cell phones into the jail.

Chief Investigator Donnie Saucier said the next morning a surveillance operation was set up to watch 39 year-old MDOC inmate Lance Bell. Officers saw Bell approach a Hancock County transport van and get a jacket. Officers then saw Bell give the jacket to another MDOC inmate, 37 year-old Robert Collins.

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Law enforcement personnel moved in and secured both suspects and the jacket. After taking Bell and Collins to a secure location at the jail, deputies searched the jacket, finding four cell phones with chargers and 56 packages of an herbal incense called “Mojo.” Saucier said the product is marked as an incense, but when smoked it gives users the same effects as smoking marijuana. While possession of the incense is not a criminal offense, there are jail policies against inmates possessing it.

Saucier said inmates possessing cell phones is a criminal offense.

Subsequent interviews and investigations concerning the alleged actions of Bell and Collins uncovered an elaborate plan involving two other inmates to brining cell phones into the jail, 29 year-old Keon Hawkins and Willie Triplett. Saucier said the case is still under investigation.

Saucier said it is important for jail personnel to crack down on jail contraband since inmates with cell phones can cause a number of problems, such as planning escapes or performing criminal activities from within the jail, such as running a criminal enterprise.

Jail personnel conducted a raid of the MDOC trustee dorm later that night to look for other cell phones. Jail personnel found 14 cell phones and several chargers in inmate bunks and personal property. While jail personnel were not able to determine who all of the cell phones belonged to, seven of the inmates had the phones in their personal possession. Those inmates include Cornelius Robinson, 25; Reginald Primm, 32; Joshua Barnes, 28; Darryl Crump, 40; Ramieriz Colley Sr., 28; Demetrica Harper, 22, and Cornelius Pulliam, 31. All of the inmates were MDOC trustees at the Pearl River County Jail, including Bell, Collins, Hawkins and Triplett. All of the inmates were charged with possession of contraband in a correctional facility.

Saucier said the trustees were all sent back to MDOC where they will be stripped of trustee status and face the charges of possession of contraband. Those charges will be presented to a grand jury.