News and Press Releases

LAST STATE PRISON GUARD IN OPERATION BLIND JUSTICE SENTENCED

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 7, 2011

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, and Rick Bradshaw, Sheriff, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, announce yesterday’s sentencing of the last defendant in Operation Blind Justice, a joint federal, state and local law enforcement undercover public corruption investigation of Florida State Prison guards. Defendant Jerry Thicklin, of Clewiston, Florida was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth A. Marra to 33 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Thicklin previously pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 846.

The sentencing of Thicklin brought Operation Blind Justice to a successful conclusion. During the investigation, FBI undercover agents represented to the defendants that they were members of a purported drug trafficking group, interested in having the defendants protect and facilitate the undercover agents’ drug trafficking operation in exchange for cash payments. As discussed during the various guilty pleas, undercover federal and state and local law enforcement agents posed as drug traffickers, and paid each of the defendants to carry multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine from Miami to West Palm Beach in exchange for cash payments of $5,000. Undercover meetings, the delivery of sham cocaine, and the payment of cash bribes were all recorded by law enforcement using digital audio and video equipment; all of the defendants wore official clothing during the time of the nine separate drug transportation episodes. None of the sham cocaine was ever smuggled into any state prison facility.

The investigation that began at the request of the Florida Department of Corrections into alleged smuggling of contraband into Glades Correctional Institute by state employees. The undercover operation that resulted in the charges against Thicklin also led to charges against guards at Moore Haven Correctional at Moore Haven, Hendry County, Florida. In February 2010, sixteen individuals, including 13 corrections officers, were charged in United States v. Latess Hill, et al., Case No. 10-80019-Cr-Middlebrooks. Three defendants posed as actual guards in order to participate in transporting what they thought was cocaine.

In total, nineteen defendants pled guilty and were sentenced for their participation in this operation. Sentences ranged from 30 to 57 months.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. Mr. Ferrer also acknowledged the outstanding cooperation of the Florida Department of Corrections. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephen Carlton and Julia Paylor.

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A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

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