Prison Laundry Employee Sentenced to Prison for Role in Drug Distribution Scheme
MISSOULA—Erin Marie Bernhardt, 47, of Deer Lodge Montana, was sentenced to 14 months’ imprisonment, three years’ supervised release, and a $200 special assessment by Chief United States District Court Judge Dana L. Christensen on Thursday, December 8, 2016 for conspiring to distribute controlled substances—methamphetamine and Suboxone—into the Montana State Prison and accepting bribes for her role in the scheme. The charges were part of a scheme where Bernhardt, an employee in the prison laundry, smuggled the controlled substances into inmates at the prison in exchange for bribes. The crimes occurred between April and August 2015.
The court previously sentenced another member of the conspiracy, Cordero Robert Metzker, to three years’ imprisonment for his role in the scheme. Three other defendants—Rachel Ross, Lauren Hoskins, and Ian Barclay—have pleaded guilty to drug trafficking or bribery charges and will be sentenced in the near future.
The charges against Bernhardt are the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Postal Inspector, the Montana Department of Corrections-Division of Investigations, Montana State Prison Warden Leroy Kirkegard and his staff, and the Montana Division of Criminal Investigations. Criminal Chief Assistant United States Attorney Joseph Thaggard and Assistant United States Attorney Jeffrey Starnes prosecuted the case.
United States Attorney Michael Cotter stated, “This is an important case aimed at an ongoing effort to root out public corruption and exclude unlawful controlled substances from the Montana State Prison. The sentence issued by the court sends a powerful message that those who introduce drugs into the prison will be investigated, prosecuted, and imprisoned.” Cotter also praised the cooperation of the various agencies that worked in unison to conduct the investigation and prosecution.