Report: Fla. corrections deputies worked with inmates to bring drugs into jail

It's unclear if any other corrections deputies are involved in the case or how long the sheriff's office was aware of the situation


By Hannah Winston
Palm Beach Post

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Two Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office corrections deputies were arrested this week after investigators say they worked with inmates to bring drugs into the county jail where they were assigned.

Jose Gutierrez, 35, and Karl Kirkland, 56, both faces charges of introducing contraband into a correctional facility. While Gutierrez is charged with possession of marijuana, Kirkland faces one count of armed trafficking of methamphetamines because investigators said he had his PBSO firearm on him at the time of the alleged crime.

An aerial view of the Palm Beach County jail.
An aerial view of the Palm Beach County jail. (Photo/Bill Ingram of Palm Beach Post via TNS)

Gutierrez, who is represented by defense attorney Gregory Salnick, was released on $11,000 bond Tuesday. Kirkland was placed on $165,000 bail Wednesday morning by Circuit Judge Charles Burton. As of Thursday morning, Kirkland remained in the county jail.

In the PBSO reports, detectives explain they were investigating "illegal contraband being introduced into the Palm Beach County Main Detention Center by inmates with the assistance of corrections deputies."

It's unclear if any other corrections deputies are involved in the case or how long the sheriff's office was aware of the situation.

In several phone calls recorded on March 31, a man who has been in the jail since 2017 on fraud and robbery charges spoke with several people in what investigators said was an arrangement to pick up and then deliver marijuana to the detention center on Gun Club Road in suburban West Palm Beach.

The Palm Beach Post is not naming the man who helped coordinate the alleged drug smuggling from inside the jail because he had not been charged in the case as of late Wednesday, according to court records.

At the end of one of the phone conversations, a man said "this is Uber eats for J. Gutierrez. Deputy J. Gutierrez."

Within hours of the conversation, a man drove up to the main jail and delivered what looked like a Domino's pizza box, according to the report. Once Gutierrez took possession of the box, he was stopped and questioned by detectives.

Inside the box, in plastic bags between sandwiches and pasta, was about 83 grams – just less than one-fifth of a pound – of marijuana, investigators said.

Gutierrez said he did not order the food, but his wife sometimes sends him meals while he's working. When detectives called his wife, she said she never sends him food.

Gutierrez denied ever knowing drugs were inside the delivery box.

The man being held in the jail was scheduled to take a plea in his fraud and robbery case the day after the incident. His plea was canceled April 1 and has since been moved to next month, according to court records.

One arrest followed meeting at a McDonald's in Palm Beach Gardens

Between March 25 and April 6, arrangements were also made from the same inmate for another delivery through a Domino's pizza box. Again, he explained the delivery was for the jail, but this time he said the name for the order was "like the Costco brand, Kirkland." It's unclear from the report if that delivery was successful.

Investigators later learned Kirkland was set to meet individuals supplying the alleged contraband at a McDonald's on Northlake Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens on April 6, the same day Kirkland was scheduled to work at the jail.

There, Kirkland was captured "through multiple surveillance techniques" taking a brown bag and then heading in the direction of PBSO's headquarters off Gun Club Road. He passed that building, stopped at a gas station, dumped the bag in a trash and then made his way to the sheriff's office, where he was taken into custody.

Inside the bag at the gas station was correspondence, cigarettes and 31 grams of methamphetamine, according to the report.

In addition to the two corrections deputy facing charges, a woman is listed as a co-defendant on Kirkland's case. The Post is not naming the woman because she had not been either arrested or charged as of late Wednesday.

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement records, Gutierrez was a corrections officer with the state Department of Corrections for nearly a decade and then joined the sheriff's office in January 2020. Kirkland has been a corrections deputy with the sheriff's office since 2015, according to FDLE records.

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(c)2021 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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