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40 Guards Charged in Georgia Prison Corruption Scandal

More than 40 prison guards and officers in Georgia have been indicted on charges of accepting bribes and drug trafficking, the latest in a federal effort to crack down on contraband and criminal activity in the state’s prisons.

Since September, about 130 people — including prison employees, inmates, former inmates and others accused of helping them — have been indicted.

The indictments resulting in the Thursday arrests were filed over the last three months and unsealed Wednesday.

A majority of those charged were Georgia Department of Corrections officers accused of agreeing to protect a person they believed was a high-level drug trafficker. The indictments say the officers agreed to wear their uniforms during the drug transports to deter law enforcement interference.

The officers charged worked at nine different prisons.

Other indictments unsealed late last month accused 51 people of participating in a financial fraud scheme masterminded by inmates using cellphones from their prison cells. Among those indicted were 15 correctional officers or former officers and 19 inmates or former inmates at Autry State Prison in Pelham.

“The indictments allege that inmates managed and directed a number of elaborate fraud schemes that victimized citizens from across the country from within the Georgia prison system using contraband cell phones,” said U.S. Attorney John A. Horn in a Jan. 21 statement.  “Since September 2015, we have charged 75 people with criminal conduct that is initiated from within state prisons.  The unfortunate common denominator to this criminal conduct is the pervasive availability of contraband cell phones, which allows too many prison inmates to continue victimizing our communities while serving their sentences.”

Just a few weeks earlier, federal prosecutors accused 17 people of participating in a drug trafficking ring that distributed significant quantities of crystal methamphetamine in metro Atlanta and elsewhere. Three inmates used cellphones to manage a network of brokers, distributors and runners from their prison cells, prosecutors said.

In September, federal prosecutors in Atlanta filed two other indictments that also targeted alleged criminal activity by Georgia inmates using cellphones. Those indictments alleged that inmates used the cellphones to traffic drugs, smuggle in contraband, steal identities and, in at least one case, to arrange a violent attack on an inmate suspected of snitching.