SAN DIEGO – Two correctional officers at Centinela State Prison have been indicted in separate cases for allegedly accepting bribes and payments from Centinela inmates and others to smuggle cellular telephones, tobacco products or drugs into the prison, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office.
In the first case, Diego Alfredo Montanez, a correctional officer at Centinela, was indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury along with inmate Jared Brown and Lavoijunee Dolores Pichon of Los Angeles for allegedly conspiring to distribute drugs within the prison, said the press release.
According to search warrants and a criminal complaint, Montanez allegedly received cash bribes in excess of $10,000 from Pichon. In return, Montanez reportedly supplied cellular telephones and controlled substances to Brown, aka “Squally,” an inmate who is currently serving an indeterminate life sentence at Centinela State Prison.
During the execution of a federal search warrant on Montanez’s residence April 19, 2017, agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Office of Internal Affairs, seized approximately 18 packages containing 38 cellular telephones, 316 grams of methamphetamine, 263 grams of heroin, tobacco, PCP and suspected marijuana, stated the press release.
During a post-arrest interview, Montanez reportedly admitted that the aforementioned cellular telephones and controlled substances were delivered to him for distribution to and within Centinela State Prison, said the press release.
In the second case, Gabriel Villagomez was arraigned on honest-services fraud charges. According to the indictment, while a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation correctional officer, Villagomez allegedly solicited and accepted bribes and payments from Centinela inmates and persons acting at the direction of Centinela inmates, to smuggle cellular telephones and tobacco products into the prison. In exchange for his corrupt smuggling activities, Villagomez reportedly received bribes and payments of at least $41,150, as said in the press release.
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Scott Kernan said in the press release: “These indictments send a strong message that our department does not tolerate the introduction of contraband into our prisons, regardless of who is responsible,” said Kernan. “The misdeeds of the few do not reflect on the commitment and dedication of our staff and correctional officers across the state, and we will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to impede narcotics, cellular phones, and other contraband from making its way into our institutions.”
This indictment stems from a joint investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation-Office of Internal Affairs-Southern Region, said the press release. These two law enforcement agencies have come together to form the San Diego Prison Corruption Task Force intended to present a unified effort to address corruption in prisons located within the Southern District of California.
The charges and allegations contained in an indictment or complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.