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9 Accused In Drug Smuggling Ring At Essex County Correctional Facility

NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Two corrections officers and a former Essex County assistant prosecutor with access to inmates smuggled contraband including drugs and cellphones into a northern New Jersey jail, according to federal charges announced on Wednesday.

As 1010 WINS’ Al Jones reported, FBI agents rounded up nine suspects who allegedly ran a contraband marketplace, smuggling drugs and cellphones into a federal pretrial detention facility at the Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark.

Prosecutors said Corrections Officer Stephon Solomon, 26, of Irvington, allegedly smuggled contraband including cellphones, tobacco and marijuana on at least five occasions to 29-year-old inmate Quasim Nichols in exchange for cash bribes.

Nichols, who is jailed on an unrelated federal charge, allegedly sold the items he received from Solomon to other inmates, who paid using Western Union money transfers obtained through family and friends, according to court papers.

Investigators said two of Nichols’ associates outside of prison, 28-year-old Darsell Davis and 30-year-old Dwayne Harper, both of Newark, allegedly acted as a go-between for the cash-contraband transfers.

Attorney Brian Kapalin, who was an Essex County assistant prosecutor for nearly 20 years, is accused of delivering marijuana to a jail inmate in exchange for cash, Jones reported.

Kapalin, 66, of Maplewood, allegedly received $1,000 for each package he smuggled.

Also charged on Wednesday were Corrections Officer Channel Lespinasse, 25, of Florham Park and inmate Muhammad Subpunallah, 32.

Prosecutors also charged Deidra Harrison, 49, of Newark, and Vladimir Sauzereseteo, 40, of East Orange, with helping from outside of the prison.

All the defendants face charges of conspiring to provide contraband to inmates at the jail, which carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for smuggling marijuana or one year in prison and a $100,000 maximum fine for smuggling a cellphone. Several of the defendants face additional charges.

Essex County Spokesman Anthony Puglisi said county and jail officials had a “zero tolerance” policy for wrongdoing. He said Lespinasse and Solomon had been suspended from their jobs and hearings were underway to withhold their pay.

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