Twelve Charged in Scheme That Allowed Georgia Inmates to Sell Drugs and Defraud Consumers from Inside Prison
ATLANTA - September 24, 2015 - Two former Georgia Department of Corrections (GDOC) employees, four current Georgia state inmates, three recently paroled inmates, and three others have been charged federally with drug trafficking, extortion, wire fraud conspiracies, wire fraud, and identity theft offenses, as detailed in two indictments unsealed today. Much of the criminal conduct allegedly was committed inside Georgia state prisons.
“Prisons serve to punish and rehabilitate convicted offenders and deter crime—not enable it,” said U.S. Attorney John Horn. “These indictments allege that, after being placed in prison to protect society from their criminal behavior, these inmates capitalized on their ready access to cell phones and other contraband to further victimize citizens outside the prisons. Prisons should be a place where we have confidence that inmates are not operating identity theft schemes and drug distribution rings.”
“The federal indictments and arrests of these individuals represent not only the larger problems posed by contraband such as cell phones in prisons, but also the joint law enforcement effort to address it,” said J. Britt Johnson, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office. “The FBI will continue to work with its state partners, to include the Georgia Department of Corrections, in addressing the many unique challenges facing correctional facilities and those that work within them”.
“Criminals who are able to operate inside correctional facilities and conduct this level of criminal activity are a direct threat to the safety of the public. The GBI is fully committed to working with the Georgia Department of Corrections and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to address this type of crime,” said Vernon Keenan, Director, Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
According to U.S. Attorney Horn, the charges and other information presented in court: As alleged in the indictments, the wide-ranging conspiracy involved GDOC employees at Phillips and Valdosta State Prisons who helped smuggle cell phones and other contraband to inmates in exchange for bribe payments. These cell phones were often equipped with touch screens and Internet access that enabled the prisoners to coordinate drug transactions, commit identity theft and credit card fraud, and even post on social media and buy products online.
According to the indictment, the charged GDOC employees allegedly helped smuggle methamphetamine, prescription pain medication, marijuana, liquor, tobacco, and take-out food into the prisons. At times, the inmates even bragged about watching streaming movies while in solitary confinement. In one instance, an inmate allegedly used his contraband cell phone to arrange a “hit” on another inmate whom he suspected of cooperating with law enforcement.
The following individuals were arrested today, and most of the defendants made their initial appearances before United States Magistrate Judge Janet F. King:
Former GDOC employees who were charged are:
- Anekra Artina Williams, 20, of Nashville, Georgia, was a GDOC guard at Valdosta State Prison, in Valdosta, Georgia. Williams has been charged with one count of conspiring to distribute at least 50 grams of methamphetamine; one count of distributing methamphetamine; and one count of conspiring to interfere with commerce by extortion.
- Charonda Edwards, a/k/a “John,” 29, of Decatur, Georgia, was a kitchen worker at Phillips State Prison, in Buford, Georgia. Edwards has been charged with one count of conspiring to distribute methamphetamine and marijuana; and one count of interfering with commerce by extortion.
The current GDOC inmates who were charged are:
- Donald Howard Hinley, 51, was an inmate at Valdosta State Prison prior to his arrest, has been charged with one count of conspiring to distribute at least 50 grams of methamphetamine; one count of distributing at least 50 grams of methamphetamine; and three counts of distributing methamphetamine.
- Mims Morris, 24, who was an inmate at Phillips State Prison prior to his arrest, has been charged with one count of conspiring to distribute methamphetamine and marijuana; two counts of conspiring to commit wire fraud; two counts of committing wire fraud; and two counts of aggravated identity theft.
- Johnathan Silvers, a/k/a “Turtle,” 28, who was an inmate at Phillips State Prison prior to his arrest, has been charged with one count of conspiring to distribute methamphetamine and marijuana.
- Adam Smith, 30, who was an inmate at Phillips State Prison prior to his arrest, has been charged with one count of conspiring to distribute methamphetamine and marijuana.
The paroled GDOC inmates who were charged are:
- Ruben Ruiz, a/k/a “Flaco” and “Scrappy,” 34, of Gainesville, Georgia, has been charged with one count of conspiring to distribute at least 50 grams of methamphetamine. Ruiz was paroled in March 2014 from GDOC custody after serving a 10-year sentence.
- William A. Matthews, a/k/a “Two Young,” 30, of Union City, Georgia, has been charged with one count of conspiring to distribute at least 50 grams of methamphetamine; and one count of distributing methamphetamine. Matthews was paroled in August 2014 from GDOC custody after serving a 10-year sentence.
- Kansas Bertollini, a/k/a “Guido,” 35, of Kathleen, Georgia, has been charged with one count of conspiring to distribute at least 50 grams of methamphetamine; and one count of distributing at least 50 grams methamphetamine. Bertollini was paroled in June 2014 from GDOC custody after serving an 11-year sentence.
The other individuals who were charged are:
- Tiffany Allen, 27, of Cleveland, Georgia, has been charged with two counts of conspiring to commit wire fraud; and two counts of aggravated identity theft.
- Monique Kinney, a/k/a Monique Reed, 26, of Augusta, Georgia. Kinney was charged with one count of conspiring to commit wire fraud; and one count of aggravated identity theft.
- Opal Marie Hayden, 58, of Acworth, Georgia, has been charged with one count of conspiring to distribute at least 50 grams of methamphetamine; and three counts of distributing methamphetamine.
Valdosta State Prison
The GDOC is an agency of the State of Georgia and responsible for overseeing the operations of state prisons. Over 55,000 inmates are incarcerated in Georgia state prisons. According to the indictment, GDOC inmates increasingly obtain and use cellular telephones to further their criminal activities while incarcerated. Among other things, cellular telephones are used to traffic drugs, commit fraud schemes, and organize criminal activity both inside and outside of prison. Inmates regularly buy and sell cellular telephones inside of prison, many of which are the latest models.
The first of two indictments focuses on Valdosta State Prison (VSP), which is located in Valdosta, Georgia, and houses adult male inmates. Donald Hinley was an inmate at VSP.
The Smuggling Scheme
The indictment alleges that inmates typically relied on prison employees to smuggle cellular telephones and other contraband into VSP. In 2014 and 2015, Hinley routinely arranged to have telephones, cigarettes, liquor, prescription pain medication, and illegal drugs smuggled into the prison by prison employees. Anekra Williams was a GDOC corrections officer who allegedly smuggled contraband into VSP in exchange for bribe payments. The indictment alleges that Williams smuggled drugs, tobacco and other items requested by inmates into VSP. On one such occasion, Williams allegedly smuggled methamphetamine and prescription pain medication into the prison for Hinley in exchange for $500. In order to assist with the smuggling scheme, Hinley allegedly arranged to have the contraband packaged in a manner to avoid detection by other prison security officers.
Drug Trafficking from Inside Prison
The indictment alleges that while an inmate at VSP, Hinley coordinated a network of illegal drug suppliers and couriers, from August 2014 through April 2015 that included, among others, Opal Marie Hayden, Ruben Ruiz, William Matthews, Kansas Bertollini, and Williams. With their assistance, Hinley allegedly brokered a number of significant drug transactions in Atlanta and in other areas of Georgia. On multiple occasions, Hinley coordinated the purchase and sale of illegal narcotics by cell phone. In recorded telephone calls, Hinley allegedly bragged “We have good prices and good product.”
The indictment also alleges that in one encounter, Hinley used his contraband cell telephone to call an inmate he knew at Telfair State Prison (TSP) and instructed his associate to kill another TSP prisoner after Hinley confirmed that the inmate was “a snitch” and was likely a prosecution witness against Hinley’s girlfriend. At the time, Hinley’s girlfriend worked as a drug courier in Hinley’s drug organization and was a defendant in a state narcotics case. Hinley allegedly ordered his associate to “shoot every one” of the witness’ family members. Immediately after law enforcement learned of Hinley’s plan, the cooperating inmate was placed in protective custody.
Phillips State Prison
The second indictment focuses on Phillips State Prison (PSP), which is located in Buford, Georgia, and houses adult male inmates. Mims Morris (Morris), Johnathan Silvers (Silvers), and Adam Smith (Smith) were inmates at PSP and were members of the Ghostface Gang. The indictment alleges that while they were inmates at PSP, both Morris and Silvers allegedly obtained cellular telephones and used them to traffic drugs and commit fraud. Morris and Silvers even obtained cellular telephones while they were in segregated custody, charging the devices using the light fixtures in their cells. Silvers allegedly bragged that his cellmate was watching a movie on his cellular telephone while they were in the “hole” together. In a recorded telephone call, Morris talked about posting on Facebook and buying shoes on the Internet. Morris boasted that the guards all knew he had a cellular telephone in segregated confinement.
The indictment also alleges that Tiffany Allen (Allen) and Monique Kinney (Kinney) assisted Morris by using stolen identities to commit fraud. Allen and Kinney communicated with Morris by cellular telephone while he was an inmate at PSP.
The Smuggling Scheme
The indictment alleges that, like VSP, inmates relied on prison employees to bring in cellular telephones and other contraband to PSP. Charonda Edwards (Edwards) was a GDOC contract employee who worked in the kitchen at the prison. Edwards allegedly obtained drugs, tobacco, and other items requested by Silvers in exchange for payment. Edwards then smuggled the items into prison and hid them so the inmates could pick up the contraband. Edwards also allegedly provided valuable information to Silvers in the process such as when the prison would be “locked down.”
Morris, Silvers, and Edwards allegedly relied on prison orderlies and other inmates inside PSP to move drugs, cellular telephones and other items throughout the prison. Morris and Silvers sold the smuggled drugs and contraband to other inmates. In one recorded call, Silvers said that, even though they were in the “hole,” he had food, cigarettes and marijuana, and even expected to get methamphetamine in the near future. Silvers paid Edwards using reloadable prepaid credit cards.
Fraud and Theft from Inside Prison
The indictment alleges that from June 2014 to September 2014, Morris allegedly used his contraband cellular telephone to perpetuate various fraud schemes from inside prison with the assistance of associates on the outside, including Kinney and Allen. The targeted victims were credit card companies and their customers, and job-seekers responding to online advertisements for work.
The Credit Card Scheme
The indictment alleges that on August 26, 2014, Morris called victim “B.T.,” pretending to be a Discover Card representative, working in the “Fraudulent Specialist Department.” He informed B.T. that there were fraudulent charges on her credit card and he needed her credit card number to verify her identity. At his urging, B.T. eventually provided her credit card number to Morris.
While pretending to be B.T., Morris allegedly called a Discover Card representative and was able to access her Discover card account. During the call, Morris used B.T.’s Social Security number and credit card number to authorize a $2,200 transfer to another credit card Morris controlled. Later, Morris allegedly pretended he was B.T. and asked the representative to change the telephone number on the account because he was going to be out of town for several weeks. The Discover representative changed the telephone number to Morris’s prison cell phone. On September 3, 2014, Morris allegedly used B.T.’s information to apply for additional credit cards. With the help of Kinney, Morris was approved for a Capital One Platinum Card using B.T.’s personal information.
The Fake Employment Scheme
On August 31, 2014, Morris texted Allen, telling her he wanted to act as though he was hiring people. Morris allegedly explained that he would obtain personal information from people seeking work and then would order debit cards in their names, using their personal information. Morris commented to Allen that it was “easy as pie” to get someone’s personal information.
The indictment alleges Morris directed Allen to post a fraudulent advertisement on Craigslist.com for job applicants for non-existent construction and roofing jobs. Morris provided a fake company name and an address in Sacramento, California, and even provided his cellular telephone in prison as the telephone number for the fake company so the victims would call him directly and provide their personal information. Allen allegedly attempted to post this information on Craigslist for Morris.
Prison Investigation Also Uncovers Illegal Machine Gun Sales
During the federal investigation, FBI agents learned that a woman, later identified as Tiffany Goodson, 34, of Toccoa, Georgia, telephoned an inmate at Jenkins Correctional Center, a privately owned state prison in Millen, Georgia. The inmate received Goodson’s telephone call on a contraband prison cell phone. During that call, Goodson, a convicted felon, allegedly informed the inmate that she knew a man who was willing to build and sell fully automatic machine guns. This inmate later cooperated with federal authorities.
When that information reached the FBI, federal agents identified Goodson and used an undercover agent to purchase two machine guns from her. The agents also identified Goodson’s gun supplier as Robert Burns, 30, of Wahalla, South Carolina. On February 15, 2015, during an undercover operation arranged by the FBI, Mr. Burns drove from South Carolina to Stephens County, Georgia, where he sold Goodson a fully automatic rifle with an obliterated serial number for $2,500.
On July 7, 2015, Goodson and Burns were indicted by a federal grand jury for their roles in a conspiracy to sell illegal machine guns. Earlier today, Mr. Burns pleaded guilty before Senior U.S. District Court Judge Orinda D. Evans. During his plea hearing, Mr. Burns admitted to making and supplying machine guns and to possessing an illegal machine gun with an obliterated serial number. Ms. Goodson’s charges are pending.
Members of the public are reminded that the indictments only contains charges. The defendants are presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the defendants’ guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
These cases are being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, and the Georgia Department of Corrections Office of Professional Standards.
First Assistant United States Attorney Kurt R. Erskine, Assistant United States Attorneys Brent Alan Gray and John S. Ghose, and Special Assistant United States Attorneys Erin E. Sanders and Trevor Wilmot are prosecuting these cases.
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Georgia
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