Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Updated: 5:02 p.m. Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Posted: 12:45 p.m. Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Eleven state corrections guards and five others pleaded guilty to cocaine possession charges in federal court, punctuating a two-year state and federal investigation into corruption in Palm Beach County prisons, federal officials said Wednesday.
The defendants, arrested in February, entered into separate plea agreements reached between April and May, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami. They pleaded guilty either to federal charges of conspiracy to possess cocaine or possessing cocaine with intent to distribute.
The case followed a lengthy FBI investigation in which agents recruited guards from Glades Correctional Institution, South Bay Correctional Institution and Florida Road Prison and other Glades residents who posed as prison guards to run loads of fake cocaine out of Miami-Dade County for $5,000 payments.
The federal investigation paralleled a state probe by the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office and the State Attorney's Office, which netted arrests of six state prison employees on charges of bribery, introduction of contraband into a correctional institution and conspiracy.
In that case, state prisoners who brought concerns to prison officials at Glades Correctional described a culture of corruption within the prison and said inmates could buy anything from iPods to marijuana - often with the help of guards. These cases still are pending in Palm Beach County Circuit Court.
The following people pleaded guilty to federal charges:
Latess Hill, Jentle Chatman, Zedra Warner, Belinda Davis Brown, Tanika Wright, Samantha Wilkerson, Kenyetta Biggs, Elisha Allen, Melvin Brown, Antonio Key, Jason Miller, Marcus Pitre, Dondia Wilkerson, Pakesha McCray, Takisha Golden and Melissa Jefferson.
Arrested on state charges were Sgts. Alanda Ray Shaw and Sheroen Lenard Dukes; officers Natasha Lacola Beckles, David Jermaine Stewart and Marlon Anthony Ellison; and substance abuse counselor Osmond W. Williams.
Each of the 16 who pleaded guilty to the federal charges will be sentenced in U.S. District Court.
Staff Writer Eliot Kleinberg contributed to this story.