CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cuyahoga County Jail officers and members of one of Cleveland’s most violent street gangs worked in tandem to sell drugs to inmates inside the troubled jail, including to at least one inmate who overdosed, according to prosecutors.
Two corrections officers and one gang member were charged Wednesday in a 30-count indictment after an investigation by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
Officers Stephen Thomas and Marvella Sullivan and suspected gang member Lamar Speights — a leader of a smash-and-grab ring serving a 16-year prison sentence — are charged in the racketeering indictment.
Thomas and Sullivan served as drug “couriers” for the inmates, the indictment says. The drug ring also involved five corrections officers who were not charged or named in the indictment, and six other inmates and an inmate’s relative and girlfriend, according to court records.
Speights and inmate Brico Allen, who faces a slew of charges including in the 2016 fatal shooting of a 25-year-old man, directed Thomas and Sullivan to bring them drugs, cellphones and other items into the jail, according to court records.
Allen has been housed in the jail since Nov. 14, 2016, when he was arrested by Cleveland police after a police chase and SWAT standoff. Allen was not charged in the drug-smuggling indictment.
An inmate’s girlfriend and Speights’ sister helped facilitate payment to the officers, court records say.
Allen paid Thomas $3,000 between April 1 and June 28 to smuggle marijuana, cellphones and cellphone batteries into the jail. Allen admitted to paying Thomas in an interview with investigators, court records say.
Allen also told investigators that he paid three other corrections officers not named in the indictment to smuggle drugs into the jail for him during his nearly three-year stay at the jail.
The unnamed corrections officers helped facilitate the drug deals, but court records do not say how. One unnamed corrections officer sold drugs to at least three inmates between January 2017 and March 2018, according to court records.
Investigators began probing the drug ring after inmate Kelly Angle survived an overdose on Jan. 18. Thomas smuggled the drugs in at the behest of another inmate, who sold the drugs to Angle. Angle was revived with Narcan after overdosing.
Thomas on April 8 sold an inmate, Alexander Foster, a cellphone and vape pens for $1,500. Four days later, he warned Foster of an impending search of the inmate’s cell, court records say. Foster flushed two cellphones down the toilet before the search, according to court records.
Thomas also sold an inmate 10 fentanyl polls on April 13 and heroin to another inmate on April 15, according to the indictment.
Sullivan on March 2 smuggled marijuana into the jail for Speights, who arranged for the officer to be paid $60 and given a purse for the drugs, according to court records.
Speights’ sister, who was not charged in the indictment, sent Sullivan $100 via a cash transfer app, court records say.
Cuyahoga County Sheriff detectives investigated and on May 8 watched Thomas on surveillance video deliver drugs to a different inmate, according to court records.
Investigators searched the cell after Thomas, 28, walked out and found 10 pills that contain fentanyl, court records say.
A sheriff’s detective also wrote in court records that he found a small piece of plastic glove that contained suspected drugs in Thomas’ pocket. Investigators seized $1,409 in cash and a cellphone Thomas used to conduct transactions, court records say.
Thomas is also accused of lying in his bankruptcy case in U.S. District Court. Court records say he testified that he had no other income other than his job as a corrections officer.
Thomas resigned on May 8 after his arrest, Cuyahoga County spokeswoman Mary Louise Madigan said.
Sullivan was resigned on March 2, Madigan said. Madigan said she did know if Sullivan’s resignation was connected to the drug-ring investigation. Sullivan was hired in November 2017.
The drug smuggling case is part of a broader investigation by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office into the jail. The investigation resulted in indictments against 11 former and current corrections officers.
The charges stem from beatings of inmates, an officer who ignored an inmate dying of a drug overdose and the former jail director lying about his role in blocking the hiring of nurses at the jail.
Former warden Eric Ivey’s Aug. 19 plea deal marked the first conviction in the probe. He was accused of ordering corrections officers to turn their body cameras off during the investigation into the death of an inmate, one of nine at the jail since June 2018. Ivey later lied to investigators.
The jail is also the subject of an FBI civil-rights probe.