Ex-corrections officer, inmate admit roles in smuggling ring

CLEVELAND (AP) — A former corrections officer at the troubled county jail in Cleveland and an inmate there have acknowledged their roles in a drug-smuggling operation inside the facility that prosecutors have said involved several officers.

Marvella Sullivan, who worked at the Cuyahoga County jail, and Lamar Speights, who authorities say is a member of the Heartless Felons street gang, entered their pleas Thursday via video conferencing.

Sullivan pleaded guilty to trafficking in marijuana and attempted bribery as part of a plea deal in which prosecutors dismissed racketeering and theft in office charges. She faces up to 30 months in prison and agreed to testify against others charged in the investigation if needed.

Speights pleaded guilty to bribery, money laundering and illegal conveyance of drugs into a government facility. He’s currently serving a 16-year prison term for participating in a smash-and-grab enterprise, and faces up to six additional years in prison on the smuggling-related charges. He also agreed to testify against others charged in the case if needed.

Sullivan and Speights will be sentenced after the cases against others charged in the smuggling ring are resolved. Another inmate and another former corrections officer have also been charged in the case, and charges may be filed against several other officers and inmates suspected of roles in the ring.

Prosecutors have said the ring operated in the jail from January 2017 through July 2019 and involved inmates and family members bribing guards to smuggle heroin, fentanyl, marijuana, cellphones, vape pens and other contraband.

The case is part of a broad investigation by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office into the jail. The cases include officers who beat inmates, an officer who ignored a dying inmate, and charges against the former warden and former jail director accused of negligently making decisions that made the jail unsafe.


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