The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

January 3, 2013

Trio charged with tossing contraband into Conneaut prison

Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — Three people face multiple charges after they reportedly tossed cellular telephones and tobacco products over the fence and onto the grounds of the Lake Erie Correctional Institution on Saturday night, authorities said.

Arrested were Taneisha Head, 26, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Miyako Austin, 32, of Cleveland; and Oplee Robinson, 29, of Cleveland, according to Conneaut Municipal Court records. Each has been charged with illegal conveyance of prohibited material onto the grounds of a detention facility; possession of criminal tools; obstruction of official business and two counts of trespassing, a court spokeswoman said. The charges are first degree misdemeanors, which carry a maximum sentence of six months in prison and a $1,000 fine.

Robinson also faces traffic charges, according to court records.

The three will have pre-trial hearings Monday afternoon in Conneaut Municipal Court. Bond was set at $10,000 cash/surety for Head, $25,000 for Austin and $30,000 (including traffic charges) for Robinson. All were in jail Wednesday in lieu of bond and will be represented by a public defender at their Tuesday afternoon pre-trial hearings, the court spokeswoman said.

City police and prison security have been working a long time to catch people who have been throwing contraband into the prison, which has been a persistent problem, said Conneaut Police Chief Charles Burlingham.

Shortly after 7:30 p.m., officers learned of suspicious behavior outside the north perimeter of the prison fence, Burlingham said. Police intercepted a vehicle traveling north on Thompson Road. The vehicle was found in the driveway of a property and inside were the three defendants, along with packaging for cellular phones and tobacco-related items, Burlingham said.

Cellular phones were apparently recovered inside the prison, and serial numbers on the devices matched the packaging discovered in the vehicle, Burlingham said.

For the past several months, city police and prison officials have teamed to stem the flow of contraband thrown over the fence and into the prison, Burlingham said.

“It happens pretty regularly,” he said. “Sometimes it’s non-stop with suspicious vehicle calls.”

Officers regularly patrol property adjacent to the prison and sometimes set up stakeouts to catch perpetrators, Burlingham said.