Corrections Officer Admits Smuggling Cell Phones into Essex County Correctional Facility for Cash Bribes
TRENTON, N.J. – An Essex County Corrections Officer today admitted her involvement in a scheme to smuggle contraband, including cell phones, into the Essex County Correctional Facility, a federal pretrial detention facility, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Channel Lespinasse, 26, of Florham Park, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Mary L. Cooper to an information charging her with one count of conspiring to commit extortion under color of official right.
According to documents filed in this and related cases and statements made in court:
On multiple occasions between August 2013 and January 2014, Lespinasse delivered contraband to federal pretrial detainees at the Essex County Correctional Facility in exchange for cash bribes. On one occasion in November 2013, Lespinasse agreed to deliver a cell phone to an inmate in exchange for $1,000. A conspirator retrieved the cell phone and the $1,000 payment from an individual outside of the facility – actually an undercover FBI agent – and gave the phone, along with a portion of the payment, to Lespinasse, who then delivered the contraband to the inmate.
The conspiracy charge to which Lespinasse pleaded guilty carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for May 7, 2015.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford in Newark, and investigators with the Internal Affairs Division of Essex County Correctional Facility, under the leadership of Essex County Corrections Director Al Ortiz, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rahul Agarwal of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division and Rob Frazer of the office’s Organized Crime/Gangs Unit in Newark.
Defense counsel: Paulette Pitt Esq., Woodbridge, New Jersey