Fayette County district attorney announce 23 prison corruption indictments

“When we started this, we never knew how deep the corruption was."

  • The Associated Press

(Uniontown) —  A Southwestern Pennsylvania district attorney announced charges against more than 20 people Thursday after a months-long grand jury investigation into the smuggling of contraband, drugs and other alleged corruption at a county prison outside of Pittsburgh.

Those charged include a former deputy warden at the Fayette County prison in Uniontown about 45 miles (72 kilometers) south of Pittsburgh as well as several guards and other employees. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported the indictments by Fayette County District Attorney Richard Bower’s office Thursday.

“When we started this, we never knew how deep the corruption was,” Bower said at a news conference.

The indictments stem from a grand jury investigation that began last fall and originally focused on illegal drugs such as K2, suboxone and Xanax being smuggled into the prison. The investigation branched out to include other allegations of oppression and corruption both inside and outside prison walls.

Bower announced charges in 30 cases against 23 people including a deputy warden, four corrections officers and nine inmates as well as a law clerk and an assistant to the county court administrator, authorities said.

Former Deputy Warden Michael Zavada, 58, allegedly gave a cell phone to an inmate in May 2018. He was charged Thursday with two counts of dealing in proceeds of unlawful activity, two counts of conspiracy to commit dealing in proceeds of unlawful activity and four charges relating to possession of contraband.

It was unclear from court records if he or the others indicted Thursday had attorneys.

The larger drug smuggling cases involved two prison guards, four inmates and two civilians who allegedly smuggled loose tobacco, Suboxone strips, K2 and marijuana into the prison, sometimes taped to a guard’s leg, sometimes stuffed inside books in exchange for money.

Many of the indictments were unrelated and focused on different violations, Bower said.

Some of the other indictments include a corrections officer charged with tampering with evidence for failing to file a report about a fight, another officer charged with aggravated assault for a dispute with a former inmate and several inmates charged with drug possession, smuggling and other counts.

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