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Sophisticated schemes used to smuggle drugs into L.A. County jails

August 9, 2010 |  8:30 am

Drugs in jail

The case of L.A. County sheriff's deputy Peter Felix, who was sentenced for smuggling drugs into a jail, underscores the Sheriff's Department's struggles in keeping drugs out of the nation's largest county jail system.

Deputies confiscate drugs from inmates on a regular basis -- and have done so for years. Felix's case and other recent ones reviewed by The Times offer a window into the elaborate schemes used to breach jailhouse security for major profit.

Earlier this year, Deputy Devin McLean admitted in an interview with a sheriff's investigator that she had smuggled heroin in a toothpaste container into a jail, according to a district attorney's office memo.

McLean said she was given the drugs by her then-boyfriend, a former inmate she had met while working at the North County Correctional Facility in Castaic. McLean explained that she carried the drugs into the jail in her backpack and then delivered the heroin inside a bedroll to an inmate, the memo stated.

Prosecutors declined to file criminal charges against McLean, saying that they did not have enough evidence to corroborate her statement at a trial. She has been relieved of duty with pay pending the outcome of an internal investigation. Her attorney declined to comment.

In March, a federal grand jury indicted an employee of a private company that delivers food to the jails for allegedly smuggling more than 100 grams of heroin into the North County Correctional Facility. That amount would easily get 150 users high, one expert said.

Angelica Mora, 40, was allegedly part of a drug ring whose members communicated in code using jail telephones. Another defendant, the operation's drug supplier, also oversaw other criminal activities for a Los Angeles street gang and the Mexican Mafia, a notorious prison gang, according to court records. Mora, the supplier and several other defendants accused in the scheme have pleaded not guilty.

In June, a Beverly Hills attorney was charged with trying to smuggle heroin to inmates in a courthouse lockup.

Read the full story here.

-- Jack Leonard and Robert Faturechi

Photo: Peter Paul Felix, 27, a former Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy, is taken into custody after being sentenced to four years for smuggling drugs into a county jail. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times