Drugs and Money-Laundering Behind Bars

Thursday, May 6, 2010  |  Updated 11:45 AM CDT
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Drugs and Money-Laundering Behind Bars

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Branford man going to jail for crash that killed his half brother.

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Some Texas inmates are under investigation for allegedly running drug-smuggling and money-laundering schemes with the help of family and even guards, a newspaper reported Thursday.

The Austin American-Statesman cited court filings in Travis County on the organized crime investigation targeting at least five inmates at the Coffield Unit near Palestine, 100 miles southeast of Dallas.

A search-warrant affidavit indicates investigators intercepted mail and listened in on phone calls made by several inmates.

"This is an active investigation. We aren't going to discuss anything," said John Moriarty, the prison system's inspector general. "But it's no secret that inmates are moving money and contraband in a network that's very complicated to investigate and track down."

In one intercepted call, an inmate admitted buying drugs from another convict and "although he did not observe guards deliver any dope, he knew they had," according to documents secured by the newspaper Wednesday.

Texas prison system administrators continue a crackdown on contraband that drew attention when death row inmate Richard Tabler used a smuggled cell phone to threaten a legislator in 2008.

State Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire of Houston, who was called by Tabler, has called for a zero-tolerance policy on prison contraband.

According to the affidavit, one convict in a phone call "explained to his father how drugs are brought into the prison through prison guards. He told him that guards make only $7.50 an hour and that offenders can get whatever they want from the guards."

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