DA: CO at Pa. jail smuggled in opioids to help an inmate drug ring
Joseph Jennings allegedly bragged that he earned enough in drug sales to afford a trip to Walt Disney World
By Vinny Vella
The Philadelphia Inquirer
BUCKS COUNTY, Pa. — A former correctional officer at the Bucks County prison was released on bail Monday after being arraigned on drug charges and other offenses for allegedly helping to smuggle synthetic opioids to inmates.
Over a year, Joseph Jennings helped smuggle strips of Suboxone, a powerful synthetic opioid, into the Bucks County Correctional Facility, coordinating with inmates through coded conversations, according to an affidavit filed last week.
The inmates knew Jennings as “Leonidas,” the affidavit says. In a letter that prosecutors say was intercepted by investigators, his co-conspirators said Jennings allegedly bragged that he earned enough in drug sales to afford a trip to Walt Disney World with his wife and two children.
Jennings, 31, was fired after being confronted with the allegations last July. He had worked at the jail for five years.
The Warminster resident was arraigned Monday on felony charges of contraband, operating a corrupt organization, and related drug offenses. He was released after posting $50,000 bail.
He has been charged alongside seven former and current inmates who investigators say received the drugs he smuggled: Joseph Robert Wilson Jr., 40; Vincent McCandless Sr., 35; Joseph Korhan, 47; Richard Dzielinski, 40; Robert Monacelli, 28; Travis Davies, 32; and Jonathan King, 30.
Jennings’ attorney, Louis Busico, said he denies the charges and has “led a completely law-abiding life.”
“By all accounts, Joseph did a very good job when he was employed by the Department of Corrections,” Busico said. “The source of these allegations is somewhat dubious and circumspect, and we intend to vigorously challenge it in court.”
County detectives had been investigating the case since October 2018, when an inmate told them a guard was smuggling Suboxone into the jail every week, sometimes as many as 100 strips at a time, the affidavit says.
For one transaction, Jennings arranged to meet with the opioid supplier at a pub near his house, and ultimately agreed to bring the contraband into the jail for $3,000, the affidavit says.
In an interview with county detectives last summer, Jennings allegedly admitted that he smuggled the drugs into the prison “only once” by hiding them in a balloon tucked into his sock.
Detectives uncovered evidence, however, that Jennings was involved in multiple transactions between October 2018 and July 2019, according to court records.
The inmates who allegedly worked with Jennings tested positive for the synthetic opioid during searches in 2018, and unused strips were found hidden in their cells.
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