Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Detention Facility Scheme to Smuggle Pot and Cell Phones into Jail Results in Guilty Pleas

Two Newark men admitted their involvement in a scheme to smuggle contraband, including marijuana and cell phones, into the Essex County Jail, a federal pretrial detention facility, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Darsell Davis, 29, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Mary L. Cooper to an information charging him with one count of conspiring with others to commit extortion under color of official right. Dwayne Harper, 30, pleaded guilty before Judge Cooper to an information charging him with one count of conspiring to smuggle contraband into the Essex County Jail. Davis has been released on bail and Harper remains in custody. According to the documents filed in this case and other cases and statements made in court:

On multiple occasions between September 2013 and May 2014, Stephon Solomon, 26, a corrections officer at the Essex County Jail, smuggled contraband—including cell phones, tobacco, and marijuana—to Quasim Nichols, 29, a federal pretrial detainee at the Essex County Jail, in exchange for cash bribes. Davis and Harper aided the smuggling scheme by collecting the contraband to be smuggled into the jail. After receiving contraband and cash bribes from Davis, Solomon smuggled the contraband to Nichols, who ultimately sold some of the marijuana and cell phones to other inmates. The inmates purchased the contraband by having friends and family send Western Union money transfers to Nichols, who then enlisted Davis and others to retrieve those payments for him. Davis obtained at least $4,300 in Western Union payments over the course of the conspiracy.

Charges against Nichols are still pending. The charges and allegations against Nichols are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Solomon pleaded guilty on Oct. 1, 2014, to one count of conspiring to commit extortion under color of official right and awaits sentencing on Jan. 21, 2015. He has been released on bail.

The charge of conspiring to commit extortion under color of official right, to which Davis pleaded guilty, carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. Davis also will forfeit $4,300, consisting of his proceeds from the conspiracy. The charge of conspiring to provide contraband, including marijuana, to inmates at the Essex County Jail, to which Harper pleaded guilty, carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.

Davis and Harper are set to be sentenced before Judge Cooper on Feb. 11, 2015, and Feb. 4, 2015, respectively.

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