01/18/2006

Four Pa. guards charged in smuggling drugs to inmates

JEROME L. SHERMAN, PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE

Copyright 2006 P.G. Publishing Co.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pennsylvania) 

A grand jury investigation into drug smuggling at the Allegheny County Jail has resulted in charges being brought against seven people, including four guards.

The group is accused of helping to supply inmates with heroin, Ecstasy, cocaine, marijuana and OxyContin, a powerful narcotic painkiller, between 2001 and 2005, according to court documents.

Six people were brought in for questioning yesterday by the office of Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. They were later arraigned before District Judge Charles McLaughlin in Brookline.

An inmate at a federal prison in Lewisburg, Union County, also faces charges.

The criminal complaints did not detail the quantity of drugs smuggled into the jail.

Those arrested include:

* Lamar Rivers, 32, of Penn Hills, a jail guard for nine years. He is charged with conspiracy, intimidation of a witness, obstruction of justice and bringing in contraband from late 2001 to September 2003.

* Daniel K. Kovacs, 35, of Castle Shannon, a jail guard for eight years. He is charged with criminal conspiracy and bringing in contraband from July to September 2003.

* Ronald L. Alford, 34, of Lincoln-Lemington, a jail guard for eight years. He is charged with criminal conspiracy and bringing in contraband between 2002 and 2004.

* Thomas J. Long, 41, of Shaler, a jail guard for seven years. He is charged with criminal conspiracy and bringing in contraband between 2002 and 2005.

* Katie T. Farmer, 59, of Coraopolis, a former nurse at the jail. She is charged with conspiracy and bringing in contraband between mid-2002 and February 2005, when she was first arrested and charged with bringing in contraband, and delivery and possession of a controlled substance.

* David Bey, 41, of the Hill District. A former guard, he was fired from the jail in August 2004, charged with drug possession and sentenced to 30 days' probation. Yesterday, he was charged with conspiracy and bringing contraband into the jail from 2001 up until his firing.

* Raymond Zwibel, a former inmate at the jail who now is being held in federal prison. He is charged with perjury and conspiracy.

All except Mr. Zwibel were released on bond. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Jan. 26.

The four guards have been suspended without pay.

Another former guard is expected to turn himself in today to face related charges, according to Warden Ramon Rustin.

Two other jail guards, one of whom was dismissed in 2004 after he was charged with drug abuse, also were charged last month in a state probe targeting prescription drug trafficking.

County police and internal affairs investigators at the jail conducted the recent probe into drug smuggling.

Court documents named about two dozen other individuals involved with the smuggling, at least one of whom is a jail guard. But Mike Manko, a spokesman for Mr. Zappala, declined to say if more arrests are likely.

Mr. Rustin, who became warden in October 2004, said he hopes to enhance the jail's internal affairs division, which is staffed by two investigators and a county police officer.

The warden also has been meeting with corrections consultants in an effort to "change the culture" at the jail.

"The majority of the officers here are good officers," he said. "But, for this to happen, there has to be a level of comfort that they can get away with this kind of stuff. That has to change."

The jail has just under 500 uniformed personnel.

Chuck Mandarino, president of the Allegheny County Independent Prison Employees Union, said he would not comment on the arrests until he learns more about the details of the investigation. 
 
Gabrielle Banks contributed to this report. Jerome L. Sherman can be reached at jsherman@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1183.

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