CMC guard accused of smuggling cell phones

July 18, 2011

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

After surveillance video at the California Men’s Colony (CMC) in San Luis Obispo County allegedly captured a correctional officer smuggling a cell phone into the prison, the accused guard retired immediately and allegedly boasted that he made more than $100,000 a year selling mobile devices to inmates.

Lt. Dean Spears, CMC’s information officer, said that he was unable to provide details about allegations that correctional officer Miguel Mendes had been videotaped smuggling cell phones into the prison because of an ongoing criminal investigation into Mendes’ activities.

Mendes, who retired on June 10 after 17 years at the prison and a previously clean record, said he was also unable to speak about the matter.

Even so, several CMC guards, who prefer to remain unnamed to protect their employment, said that some guards, upon reaching retirement age, routinely smuggle cell phones and tobacco into the prison. When caught, they quickly retire and generally do not face criminal action, the employees said.

On his way out Mendes bragged not only about his profits, but also that he had been running the scheme over a multi-year span, the employees said. Cell phones in prison, which are frequently used to direct criminal activity, sell for hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of dollars if they arrive Internet-ready.

Spears, who verified that cell phones are a problem at the prison, said people often deliver phones to inmates by tossing them over fences at the West Facility, as well as at the minimum-security camp section of the Men’s Colony.

“Being so close to the highway and land that is not state property gives people easy access to the institution,” Spears said. “We find stuff on our grounds all the time: tobacco, cell phones, drug paraphernalia.”

During the past year, as many as six packages containing drugs, tobacco and cell phones have been found near the West Facility wall in one night alone. Inmates allegedly set up the contraband drops using smuggled cell phones already inside the prison.

“People get dropped of on Highway 1, walk down the creek and throw the objects, generally wrapped in a sock, over the fence,” one longtime guard said. “It is the biggest breach of security I have ever seen at the facility.

“Someone could throw a gun over the fence and an officer could be killed,” the guard added. “They (prison officials) have known about this for over a year and they have done nothing to stop it.”

Not all of this contraband, however, comes from outsiders. Correctional officers said that about four cases of employee smuggling occur each year at CMC, usually involving prison contractors, people who come on the grounds to work on construction projects.

An incident similar to the one involving Mendes occurred five years ago when surveillance footage caught correctional officer Richard Granados allegedly smuggling tobacco into the prison. Guards said that Granados, too, boasted about his profits, claiming he made $100,000 and paid for his daughter’s medical school expenses through illegal tobacco sales.

When contacted, Granados denied the allegations and said he never brought any contraband into the Men’s Colony.

Like Mendes, Granados retired after his alleged offense, keeping his pension intact and remaining eligible for other government jobs. Prosecutors never filed charges against him.

Correctional officers said that complicit prison guards frequently escape charges of smuggling contraband into prison. Since the disciplinary process is expensive and creates bad publicity, California prisons are often content with merely accepting resignations from offending officers.

Kern County, however, bucked that trend last month by sentencing Avenal State Prison correctional officer Randy Motl to a three-year prison sentence for bribery. Motl admitted to distributing cell phones and tobacco to inmates in exchange for cash, electronic devices and toys for his children.

Cell phones have become abundant in prisons. In 2006, prison officials confiscated 261 cell phones inside California prisons. By 2010, the amount of phones grabbed by prison workers had risen to 10,761.

It is a misdemeanor to introduce contraband into a prison, and a bill, SB26, specifically criminalizing the delivery of cell phones to inmates was approved by the California legislature on June 2.


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golfexpert45

If the state can’t prosecute for bringing contraband into the institution let the feds have him for tax avoidance on all the unreported income.


racket

Perhaps San Luis Obispo County could ban all cell phone use in all of its purview. This would clearly put an end to the smuggled cell phone issue.


(Hey, they think an outright ban is a reasonable cure for other unwanted behaviour — like using grocery bags.)


Uncleusa

They could instal a device that blocks all cell phones problem solved


CA Native

The only difference between the inmates and the ‘correctional officers’ is the uniforms they wear.


unlisted

In addition, they also have better salaries, retirement and medical benefits.


RU4Real

unlisted, I don’t know about THAT! After being treated at several medical facilities, I’ve noticed that the “guarded prisoners” seem to be getting excellent care & treatment, at the expense of the tax payer. The prisoners are no doubt getting “better health care” while they’re incarcerated than they did “on the outside”. I just have to ask, WHY?


Uncleusa

not good money for what they do. they guard all the worst we have to offer and they took a 20% cut in pay. Can you live on that i know i can not.


Crusader

So quit already. There are thousands in line for your job.


ApathyWillKillYou

If smuggled cell phones in a prison are a BAD thing (and they probably are) why not:


Install cell phone jammers


or


How many cell towers are available to CMC? I understand you can LOCATE a cell phone very precisely using current technology. So identify those cell phones and numbers being used at CMC and block them or even better yet… hack them and record inmate conversations!


or


Sell the inmates the cell phones and charge them huge minute fees! (just kidding)


cheseburger

I like the sell them the phone and charge them a weeks worth of breaking rocks per call!


cheseburger

““Being so close to the highway and land that is not state property gives people easy access to the institution,” Spears said. “We find stuff on our grounds all the time: tobacco, cell phones, drug paraphernalia.” sounds like if they have the money out side, they can get whatever they want inside, and I hear this is the general rule. This is funny a little off subject but didn’t I hear about a woman trying to smuggle a 357 revolver into the prison but she started doing the according to LEO,”the pee, pee dance”,

so they checked her out and wala a loaded 357, anybody else hear about this? And this cell phone sales man should be worked on a chain gang.


justme

As a small biz owner I have to wonder why ANYBODY has to be paid after they ain’t workin’ no more. Jesus Christ, is it a carrot to keep them sucking off guys like me who create commerce and actually contribute? The idea Ciivil sevrants (Servants? THEY”RE FRICKEN PAID!!!) have is to survive and not get fired while doing as little as possible until the free money comes. I’m motivated to get as much done as efficiently as possible and considering I have competetion I must do it better and aper than them. Just the opposite of what a civil “servant” does. Look at this, Puke. No consideration of his country, society or guys like me who provide his wages.

Yank his retirement give him some time in CMC then down to his homeland to see how a country full of pigs like him ends up.

Get a rope.


Side_Show_Bob

Coming from the same side of the fence, it just makes me puke!


I really don’t know why I should bother to produce any longer. The Government has a hand in ALL my pockets, I work harder, make less money, and watch as these bastards get fat with great salaries and fat pensions, and now a sweet sideline to make lots and lots cash with apparent immunity.


Gee, I wonder if they’re paying taxes on that income. Gee, I wonder if the IRS will pursue these pukes like they do to me if I’m late on a Quarterly?


ososkid

Hey if you guys are such self made producers why don’t you produce some thinking, instead of running around with tired old talking points you heard in the sound bytes of limbaugh you actually pay attention to.


“I produce everything myself nobody helps me the govt does nothing but leech”. Whahhh whahhh youre such a couple of sissy little cry babies. That guy who works at cal trans who you think hasnt “produced a dime has produced more revenue for society than you two free loaders ever will. How much of your work could you get done if there werent any roads? HUh? yeah not much. How bout that teacher who you hate because she gets health care? How much money would you ladies make if nobody ever taught your employees to do things like say, count back change to your customers, or read directions?


I have more respect for welfare cheats than I do a couple of freeloaders like yourself. At least when someone gets a few extra food stamps they dont stand up on a soap box but you you’ll take everything society will give you and then cry like little sissy girls when it comes time for you to pay for your ticket into this economy. Disgusting thoughtless losers


racket

Ososkid:


Setting aside your larger point, you seem to have a thing for ladies and little girls.


I get it that you disagree with non-appreciators of public workers, but to belittle them by calling them female is poor form.


justme

Let me guess, you’re an employee in retail with a mean boss who makes more than you and all your probs are his fault, right? it’s his fault plus Side Show Bob’s and mine.

What do you mean “freeloaders”. We pay more taxes, fees, lic. Ins. and @ a higher rate than you do as an employee.

Guys like us are the only hope crappy lifetime employees like you will have in the future economy. Clean up your mouth, quit being an obnoxious burnout at a young age and maybe some fellow loser will hire you,


ososkid

No I’m a contractor. I also have a small business. I struggle from day to day like everyone else, I just don’t cry like a little See You in Toledo because my kids teacher gets a pension. I also don’t take for granted things like the roads the govt builds so I can get to work, or the standards set by the govt that lets me rest assured that when one of my employees turns on a saw he wont be electrocuted, or the cops who let me rest with some ease at the thought that if I turn my back all my tools will not be stolen assuming I show some amount of due diligence. Yeah I find it frustrating when I look at what I have to pay to the govt for workers comp but I also know how much more I would have to pay if I were left to deal with the blue Cross/shield and Prudentials of the world.


Yeah paying my taxes is a pain in the arse but you know what I make a good living and I provide a good living for my employees and at the end of the day I can sleep because I didnt get myself all worked up over the benefits that someone else is getting, You would serve yourself well by just sucking it up and stop crying like a little sissy girl.


Why do I keep calling you guys sissies? because for 20 years I have been hearing the right refer to the left as the weaker form of political thought, but when it comes down to it, all I ever hear from the right is whine whine whine nothings fair everyone’s out to get you. So you’re either a bunch of sniveling little brats or paranoid schizophrenics I guess I could let you choose either way your lacking in a having a set


cheseburger

I hate to tell you Ososkid, I don’t post here much anymore because of small minded people like you, think beyond your bubble, if we keep handing out hundred thousand dollar a year pensions, there will be no economy, there for work for you to contract, I have asked you politely for your license number and it has not been posted, I am definitely left wing, even though seems both wings of this bird are broken, divide and con-cor, this is why this country doesn’t work, your on here so much you don’t have time to be a contractor, I think you are a fraud.


****”or the standards set by the govt that lets me rest assured that when one of my employees turns on a saw he wont be electrocuted*****


GO TO ANY CONSTRUCTION JOB IN THIS COUNTY AND YOU WILL FIND SAW GUARDS WIRED UP AND A MILLION OTHER INFRACTIONS


I think I have seen one OSHA


Centurion

The FBI doesn’t get “sandbagged” by employee unions. The officers at Corcoran were exhonorated because there was little substance to the charges.


As for this cell phone thing. Bob, in his comments above, has the right idea. Making the introduction of cell phones a felony is a giant step towards being able to deal with these losers. As a retired correctional officer I can assure you that 99 per cent of us are even more angered and disgusted by this behavior than the rest of the public. Introduction of drugs and cell phones compromises the safety of everyone inside the prison, from inmates to employees.


We would like nothing better than to see these clowns prosecuted to the full extent and incarcerated.


Cindy

No doubt that is exactly why some of the guards took this story to CNN. It’s time to make an example of the brass that sweeps this stuff under the rug. They are just as responsible as the culprits bringing in this contraband, no consequences no fowl is no way to run a prison. As for that fence, why can’t they monitor the area from inside on video? This whole problem doesn’t add up to anything more than an excuse.


IMO

You have no idea how much is swept under the rug @ CMC depending on who you are/who you know. It has got to be one of the biggest old boys clubs in the state (CDCR that is). For example, the executive assistant at CMC had an relationship with an inmate, got moved to a job without inmates that other people would have jumped at (really, how is that punishment to get moved to a better job) and then eventually promoted into being the executive assistant to the warden all because she was in good with one of the now retired administrators. All depends on who you know when it comes to punishment at CMC.


standup

I seriously doubt that 99% of you guys are clean.


Bob

The state has previously reported that the #1 source of cell phone smuggling into prisons is by the correctional officers.


How to resolve the issue;


1. Do not allow any employee to retiring prior, during or after any investigation into alleged criminal conduct. Place them on unpaid administrative leave pending the outcome of investigation and any criminal proceedings. Terminate any employee upon conviction, no retirement or resignation accepted.


2. Prosecute every offender including the correctional officers without exception with a mandatory minimum 1 year prison sentence for every smuggling incident.


3. After convicted, make the correctional officers or other staff pay the full cost of investigation, trial and imprisonment as restitution to the state.


4. After conviction, revoke any retirement pensions and benefits. After restitution is made return only what the former employee paid into the system from his own pocket, all state contributions & interest earned forfeited.


The plan is simple, take the money and life time benefits away and 99% of criminal activity by correctional officers will stop.


gt

All great ideas Bob. As a retired investigator for CDC I can tell you that the smuggling issues were very frustrating for us. Trafficking cell phones or tobacco is not a crime. That is the biggest problem. For five years that I am aware of we (the officer’s union included) have been trying to introduce bills to make these issues crimes at least at the misdemeanor level. Frankly it’s been like kicking a dinosaur, they don’t move very fast and your foot gets awfully sore. I am thankful that these issues are receiving media attention and I am also thankful that the department is starting to take action to stop some of the run away retirement. I would spend months doing research only to hear that the case was over because the employee retired and it wasn’t worth pursuing because it wasn’t cost effective. I am a firm believer in preventative measures. If you at least strip the employee of retirement benefits and make them ineligible to obtain government employment in the future, that would send a huge message to others who might say, “Why not, they let old Joe get away with it.”


sloweb

Bob, great idea. Let’s run it by the union first. Oh wait…. that won’t work! Rats!


cheseburger

One thing the ones who have banked a lot of illegal monies already, can buy their way out with a high priced attorney, just like Stewart Title and Miller and Gearhart, Robert M. Jones finally quit representing Miller, (public record), maybe he is getting arrested for the Nancy Meek thing, when is something going to come down with the Feds.?????????????????????????????????????


whatisup

Why don’t they just put the guards and other prison employees through the same detection equipment that is used at airports?


racket

Union won’t let them. Go figure.


Side_Show_Bob

This^^^


Plain and simple.


I have begun to lose all respect for those in civil service. Until those that don’t partake in these shenanigans speak up and fight to keep their ranks clean, my respect and support of these groups will continue to wane. At this point, I wouldn’t pee on any of them if they were on fire.


zaphod

I agree this union is perhaps the most corrupt of all, even the FBI was sandbagged during an investigation.at Corcoran.


swarde

Like the inmate in the video says: “If you suck ass long enough, pretty soon you start choking on shit.”