Corrections Officers, Lawyer Among Nine Charged in Schemes to Smuggle Contraband into Federal Pretrial Detention Facility
NEWARK—Two corrections officers, a lawyer, and six others were charged today in three separate complaints with smuggling contraband, including cell phones and marijuana, into a federal pretrial detention facility at the Essex County Correctional Facility, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Corrections officer Stephon Solomon, 26, of Irvington, New Jersey; Darsell Davis, 28, Dwayne Harper, 30, and Deidra Harrison, 49, all of Newark; attorney Brian Kapalin, 66, of Maplewood, New Jersey; and Vladimir Sauzereseteo, 40, of East Orange, New Jersey, were arrested this morning by special agents of the FBI. Corrections officer Channel Lespinasse, 25, of Florham Park, New Jersey, was issued a summons. Quasim Nichols, 29, and Muhammad Subpunallah, 32, already are incarcerated on unrelated federal charges.
“According to the complaints, the defendants operated contraband marketplace within the walls of the Essex County Correctional Facility,” said U.S. Attorney Fishman. “Jails are no place for drugs and illicit phones, and it is disappointing that two corrections officers and an attorney allegedly used their authority and access to make them available.”
“The allegations in today’s complaints underscore the commitment of the FBI and the Department of Justice to continue to pursue those employed by the government who undermine the public’s trust and engage in unethical and corrupt practices,” said Special Agent in Charge Ford. “The FBI and our law enforcement partners are determined to address public corruption at all levels of government.”
Solomon, Davis, Harper, Harrison, Kapalin, Sauzereseteo, Nichols, and Subpunallah are scheduled to make their initial appearances this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge James B. Clark, III in Newark federal court. Lespinasse will appear for her initial appearance on June 2, 2014, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael A. Hammer in Newark.
According to the complaints unsealed today:
On at least five occasions between October 2013 and April 2014, Solomon, a corrections officer at the Essex County Correctional Facility, smuggled contraband—including cell phones, tobacco, and marijuana—to Nichols, an inmate there, in exchange for cash bribes. Nichols’ friends, Davis and Harper, helped by collecting the items that were to be smuggled into the jail. Davis then handed off the contraband and cash payments to Solomon. Nichols ultimately sold some of the marijuana and cell phones he received from Solomon to other inmates. The inmates purchasing marijuana and cell phones from Nichols had their friends and family pay for the items by sending Western Union money transfers to Nichols, who then enlisted Davis and others to retrieve the payments. Nichols also used the cell phones he received through this smuggling scheme to communicate with his conspirators.
Lespinasse, another corrections officer at the Essex County Correctional Facility, also smuggled in contraband in exchange for a cash bribe. In November 2013, Lespinasse and an associate, Harrison, agreed to smuggle a cell phone to an inmate in the jail in exchange for a cash bribe. On behalf of Lespinasse, Harrison accepted a $1,000 cash bribe and a cell phone from an undercover agent in the parking lot of a McDonald’s restaurant in Newark. Harrison promised the undercover federal agent that the cell phone would be delivered to its recipient—an inmate in the jail. Three days later, Lespinasse delivered the cell phone to the inmate.
Kapalin, a lawyer who practiced in New Jersey, used his access to inmates at the Essex County Correctional Facility to smuggle in contraband—including marijuana and tobacco—to inmates, including Subpunallah, in exchange for cash payments. Sauzereseteo, an associate of Subpunallah, delivered the contraband and the cash payments to Kapalin, who then smuggled the contraband into the jail. In January 2014, Kapalin spoke with Subpunallah—at that point an inmate at the Hudson County Correctional Facility—over a recorded jail phone. Subpunallah asked Kapalin to deliver contraband to an inmate at the Essex County Correctional Facility. Sauzereseteo was paid $1,650 via Western Union money transfers, which he used to purchase marijuana he delivered to Kapalin, along with a cash payment. A few days later, Kapalin met an inmate from the Essex County Correctional Facility in the attorney conference room at the jail, during which time he delivered the marijuana to the inmate.
A search of the federal pods at the Essex County Correctional Facility on May 26, 2014, produced nine hidden cell phones, including one in the light fixture in the ceiling of Nichols’ cell.
The criminal complaints charge Solomon, Nichols, Davis, Harper, Lespinasse, and Harrison each with one count of conspiring to violate the Hobbs Act, punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of the greatest of $250,000 or twice the gain or loss from the offense. The criminal complaints charge all nine defendants with one count of conspiring to provide contraband to inmates at the jail, a count that carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for smuggling marijuana or one year in prison and $100,000 maximum fine for smuggling a cell phone.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford in Newark, and the Internal Affairs Division of Essex County Correctional Facility, under the leadership of Warden Roy Hendricks, with the ongoing investigation leading to today’s arrests.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rahul Agarwal of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division and Rob Frazer of the Criminal Division, Organized Crime/Gangs Unit in Newark.