The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

January 21, 2013

RR workers discover prisoner contraband

By MARK TODD - mtodd@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

CONNEAUT —  Bagged contraband apparently intended for inmates inside the Lake Erie Correctional Institution was discovered by railroad workers Friday afternoon along tracks near the prison, police said.

Two large bags filled with cellular telephones, tobacco, marijuana and alcohol were found by Norfolk Southern Railway employees between Thompson and Woodworth roads, police said. Police were sent to the NS train yard to meet an LaECI investigator at 2:30 p.m.

Police believe the bags were meant to be tossed over the prison’s north fence, but the delivery person didn’t complete the mission. Police have stepped up patrols of property adjacent to the prison in response to reports of prohibited items flying over the fence.

Within a week’s span late last year and early this month, four people have been arrested and charged with trying to smuggle goods into the prison, authorities have said. Police believe four more men arrested on unrelated charges this month were in town for a smuggling job.

The cache discovered Friday was similar to packages already intercepted by officers, police said. Some of the products were wrapped in duct tape or contained in plastic bottles, just like previous shipments, police said. However, other packages were labeled with a black marker, indicating they were meant for a specific inmate, police said.

Officers have said smugglers apparently approach the fence along the nearby NS tracks, then wait in a wooded area nearby for an opportunity to run up to the fence, fling bags over the fence and then retreat.