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Contraband smuggling investigation leads to 13 arrests

November 06, 2016 06:45 PM

ALBANY -- Merlin Thomas, a correction sergeant at the Albany County Jail, faced a judge in Colonie Town Court Sunday on nearly a dozen charges in connection with an alleged prison contraband smuggling operation.

“You look for good employees to do good things,” said Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple. “Here, he's going to pay dearly for this.”

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Apple says it was the result of a three-month investigation after an inmate tipped them off.

“As a result of recorded phone calls, we knew the sergeant would be smuggling contraband into the facility yesterday morning,” Apple said.

Thomas, 48, was arrested. Apple says he had contraband on him and in his car at the time. The jail went into lockdown Saturday as investigators searched the facility and found a cell phone, four homemade knives and marijuana.

As a result, 12 other people were under arrest. Apple says Thomas was the middle man, meeting civilian suspects from outside the jail.

“Collecting $200 in cash and taking packages into the facility. The packages would contain anything from tobacco, marijuana, controlled substances and cell phones,” Apple said.

Those packages would be delivered to inmates connected to the civilians outside the jail, according to Apple.

“In some cases, we had girlfriends,” Apple said. “In one case, we had a father.”

The group was also arraigned in Colonie on Sunday. They were brought in one-by-one in handcuffs with the exception of Raheem Hines, who Apple says is still at large.

Altogether, they face four misdemeanors and six felonies, including conspiracy, bribery and official misconduct.

Apple says there'll be some changes in security to prevent this from happening again.

“You really look for honesty and trust with your employees,” he said. “Other than strip search your employees prior to coming to work, you just pray to God that you got good, stand up employees and no crud.”

Credits

WNYT Staff

Copyright 2016 - WNYT-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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