NEWARK - Nine people, including a former assistant prosecutor and two corrections officers, are facing charges in what federal authorities say was a ring that smuggled contraband into a northern New Jersey jail.
The U.S. Attorney's Office says the ring ran a "contraband marketplace" inside a federal pretrial detention facility at the Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark.
Authorities say the officers and the attorney abused their positions to smuggle marijuana, tobacco, cellphones and other contraband into the facility in exchange for cash bribes. The goods were distributed by inmates also charged in the scheme.
Federal authorities say 66-year-old attorney Brian Kapalin, of Maplewood, was among those charged. Kapalin previously served as an assistant prosecutor in Essex County.
According to the federal complaint, Kapalin exchanged several text messages and phone calls with Vladimir Sauzereseteo to make arrangements for Kapalin to smuggle pot and cigarettes to Sauzerseteo's brother, who was being held in the Essex County Jail. For his efforts, federal officers say Kapalin was paid $1,000 for each delivery. Authorities say they have recordings and phone records, but Kapalin's attorney says his client is innocent.
"We're looking forward to trial," says Chris Patella, Kapalin's attorney. "He's going to be exonerated at trial. We're confident of that."
Corrections Officer Stephon Solomon is accused of taking bribes to smuggle cell phones, marijuana and cigarettes into the jail where he worked. Solomon allegedly delivered the contraband to inmate Quasim Nichols from late 2013 through last month. According to the complaint, Solomon's friends, Darsell Davis and Dwayne Harper, paid the bribes and collected payments for the goods Solomon sold to other inmates inside the jail.
Deidra Harrison is accused of accepting a bribe on behalf of her friend, Channel Lespinasse, another corrections officer, who authorities say then delivered a cell phone to an inmate in the Essex County Jail.