Guard, strippers charged in inmate smuggling operation
(ABC Action News) LAND O’ LAKES, Fla. – A former state prison guard is in the Pasco County Jail after an investigation into an inmate’s escape from a work detail last fall.
Pasco County Sheriff’s Office investigators said it led them to discover a contraband smuggling operation.
Cigarettes, synthetic marijuana, beer and the all supplies needed to smuggle contraband back into prison — it’s just some of what investigators say inmates got a hold of when two women brought the items to a work crew along State Road 54 in Lutz.
The crew was from the Florida correctional institution in Sumter County.
“It’s scary. If these people were to become intoxicated on alcohol or narcotics and have access to the community… And they obviously did,” detective David Boyer said.
The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office says Stacey Petty got help from the inmates when her car broke down, then came back once a week for a year with fellow stripper Jessica Morgan.
According to an arrest report, the pair brought the convicted felons contraband and had sex with some of them in the woods.
In surveillance video released in September, we saw one of those prisoners, Jason Adams, shopping at the Metro Food Mart near the work site.
Just days later he escaped, setting off a manhunt.
He was caught the next day in Hillsborough County.
While investigating the escape, deputies from Pasco County started finding the contraband.
Eventually, deputies said, Adams told them the guard, Henry Blackwelder, was involved. He’s accused of taking money and cigarettes in exchange for allowing the smuggling operation to continue.
“Prison is supposed to be tough and something you don’t want to go to. He was allowing it to be basically a party out there for them,” Sheriff Chris Nocco said.
Investigators said Blackwelder even ate inmates’ leftover food.
“It’s almost like Yogi the bear out there, eating other peoples food. He was clearly involved in this, knowing what was going on,” Nocco said.
Investigators said the smuggling operation continued even after the guard resigned, so more arrests could be coming.
Nocco also said the new secretary of the Department of Corrections, Julie Jones, is working to fix any problems.
He said the former administration didn’t take the problems seriously.
Former Secretary Michael Crews resigned in November following a number of abuse reports and a multimillion-dollar deficit.