Law Enforcement Specialties >> Corrections, Probation & Parole >> Calif. jailers arrested for cell phone smuggling


Calif. jailers arrested for cell phone smuggling

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Posted over 8 years ago


Andrew Blankstein, Times Staff Writer

Copyright 2006 Los Angeles Times

All Rights Reserved 

Three jailers and a former guard at the federal Metropolitan Detention Center in downtown Los Angeles were charged Thursday with smuggling cellphones and cigarettes to inmates in exchange for nearly $20,000.

The U.S. attorney's office alleged in court papers that three of the guards delivered cellphones to two inmates, including a convicted bank robber and a convicted drug trafficker.

But the inmates, who were cooperating with federal officials in exchange for more lenient sentences, surrendered the phones to authorities.

The arrests capped a nearly yearlong sting operation that began when federal officials received tips from inmates who said guards were providing certain prisoners with banned items such as phones and cigarettes.

Federal authorities said they enlisted the help of the prisoners to set traps for the guards, whose actions were recorded on videotape.

In one case last year, prosecutors said, guard Juan Cortes, 34, was recorded while allegedly receiving $6,000 in an unmarked envelope from an undercover agent who was posing as a relative of another prisoner.

During the exchange, which was made in Cortes' car at a Denny's restaurant parking lot near downtown Los Angeles, the agent handed the cellphone to Cortes, who later allegedly gave the phone to the prisoner.

Two weeks later, Cortes allegedly met the same agent and accepted a second payment -- this time $5,000. Cortes kept the money but never delivered the cellphone, said Assistant U.S. Atty. Daniel Shallman.

Cortes left the Metropolitan Detention Center a short time later to take a job as an immigration enforcement agent for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

"The willingness to deliver cellphones to inmates is extremely egregious and dangerous conduct," Shallman said. "Cellphones are powerful tools in a facility like this, either to call in orders or to keep committing crimes."

Cortes, of San Diego, was put on administrative leave by the immigration department in November 2005, after he was arrested by local police in an unrelated case in which he was charged with attempted grand theft and forgery.

Cortes was out on bail in that case when FBI agents arrested him Thursday morning.

Later that day, Cortes appeared in federal court to face two counts of bribery and two counts of providing contraband to an inmate. He could not be reached for comment.

He faces a maximum of 31 years in federal prison if convicted of all charges. His next court appearance will be for arraignment Monday. Cortes was released on $75,000 bond.

Also making their first federal court appearances Thursday were guards Anthony Robuffo, 39, of Fullerton; Ricardo Campos, 26, of El Monte; and Juan Nieto, 30 of South Gate. They were released on bail.

Shallman said the sting operation followed this scenario: An inmate would place an order with the guard, who was given the phone number of the relative or friend on the outside.

Robuffo, a jailer for three years, met an agent at a McDonald's in Seal Beach on May 30, 2005, where he received $1,500 to distribute several cartons of cigarettes, prosecutors said.

Investigators said they used Rothman cigarettes to avoid confusion with the more popular Marlboros, making the contraband easier to track.

On June 7, the same agent met with Robuffo at the same McDonald's and received $5,000 in return for providing a cellphone to the jailed drug trafficker, Shallman said. Robuffo was worried about smuggling a charger for the phone, so he offered to juice up the phone himself, he said.

Campos met with an agent May 13, 2005, at a McDonald's near the downtown Greyhound bus station where he accepted $5,000 for one cellphone, prosecutors said. He faces a 15 1/2 -year sentence if convicted.

Nieto is accused of accepting $1,000 in return for agreeing to provide an inmate with two cartons of cigarettes.

A guard since 2003, he faces 15 years in prison.

"We are hoping to shut down the flow of contraband into the jail and with it the ability of criminals and prisoners to commit crimes from their cells," Shallman said. 


February 3, 2006



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Rate This | Posted over 8 years ago


You know you can submit your own news articles, right? Just a suggestion instead of spamming the CO forum...




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Rate This | Posted over 8 years ago


Well in prison, if any Corrections Officer is caught bringing any cell phone or electronic device in without prior authorization, then it is an automatic admin leave pending an investigation by the Inspector Generals Office (Internal Affairs). Minimum is being fired, Maximum is being prosecuted for a Misdemeanor crime. That is something you really do not want to deal with, atleast in my opinion......


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Rate This | Posted over 8 years ago


I think these officers got what was rightfully coming to them for doing somthing that could possibly put thier fellow coworkers in danger... Just my two cent as a fellow C.O.