Former inmate arrested for using drones to deliver drugs to Fla. DOC facilities

Officials suspect a larger-scale operation of contraband introduction into multiple Florida correctional institutions using drones


By Florida Department of Corrections

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) announced the arrest of former Florida inmate Mario Brian Crawford, 33, on multiple charges, including the introduction of contraband, operation of an unmanned aircraft over a critical infrastructure facility, trafficking in methamphetamine, and possession of cocaine.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office arrested Crawford on an Office of the Inspector General (OIG) warrant from Escambia County. A search of Crawford's rental vehicle produced evidence supporting his ongoing criminal activity including a drone and contraband packaging materials. Crawford is among others suspected of being involved in a larger-scale operation of contraband introduction into multiple Florida correctional institutions using drones.

The use of cell phones, like these from a 2018 effort to intercept contraband cellphones, jeopardizes the safety of the public, staff and inmates.
The use of cell phones, like these from a 2018 effort to intercept contraband cellphones, jeopardizes the safety of the public, staff and inmates. (Florida Department of Corrections)

"Contraband threatens officers and inmates alike, and when it comes to cell phones, the threat often extends outside the prison gate. Contraband cell phones impede the ability for our staff to manage a safe and secure institution. This arrest is part of a broader Department mission and represents the successful disruption of a criminal contraband introduction network across Florida," said FDC Secretary Ricky Dixon. "In this instance, an excellent collaborative investigation among Department and local agencies led to multiple charges and prevented contraband from entering into more correctional institutions."

The use of contraband cell phones not only circumvents FDC's security practices but provides an avenue for illegal drug use, extortion, and human trafficking by offering inmates a route for unmonitored communications, jeopardizing the safety of the public, staff, and inmates. Since July 2012, FDC has seized more than 76,400 cell phones. Currently, FDC is working with federal, state, and local partners to reverse the federal law prohibiting cell phone jamming technology - a frequency used to render cell phones unusable within the compounds of an institution.

Crawford was released from FDC custody in 2021 after serving a seven-year sentence for trafficking in stolen property and grand theft and is currently under supervision for a case in Georgia.

The investigation is ongoing, and more information will be released when it becomes available.

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