A detention officer was arrested at the Pottawatomie County Public Safety Center Friday on a felony warrant for allegedly taking $1,000 to smuggle a cell phone to an inmate jailed on charges involving a large methamphetamine raid.
That detention officer, Michael Wayne George, 22, of Tecumseh, was formally charged in Pottawatomie County District Court Friday with the felony of being a jail employee receiving compensation from an inmate for bringing an item into jail, court documents show.
The arrest and charges followed an extensive internal investigation within the jail.
PCPSC Director Sid Stell said George, who was on his day off Friday, was called to the jail for a meeting, where he was arrested just after noon without incident.
George, held on a $10,000 bond, was transferred for holding to the Lincoln County jail.
Stell said George had worked as a detention officer at the Shawnee facility since August. An internal investigation was launched after a cell phone battery was found on an inmate inside the jail.
"Obviously if there's a battery loose in the facility, there must be a phone to go with it," Stell said.
The lengthy investigation led to further information and the phone being found last week after it was flushed down a toilet at the jail, Stell said. The investigation pointed to George as a suspect and a warrant was sought.
The felony charge alleges George received $1,000 from the wife of inmate Juan Rangel-Ortiz of Oklahoma City on or between Nov. 18 and Dec. 12, for purposes of him taking a cell phone into the safety center. Rangel-Ortiz has been jailed in the facility since last summer.
According to the arrest affidavit filed in the case, the prisoner stated in an interview that he initially asked George to bring in the phone for $500, but Officer George refused, along with another offer of $700. With an offer of $1,000, the affidavit alleges George said he would think about it. The affidavit further states the inmate's wife met George in Shawnee and gave him a cell phone and $1,000 cash.
Rangel-Ortiz, 34, was arrested on trafficking charges back in June as part of a massive methamphetamine raid that netted more than 40 arrests from the Shawnee, Tecumseh and Oklahoma City areas. He remains jailed in that case as his court case progresses.
While there are pay phones inmates can use inside the jail, those are strictly monitored and recorded, Stell said, but an unknown cell phone in a jail can be a dangerous combination for the staff as well as other prisoners.
Stell said there's a concern that inmates can conduct business related to the activity for which they were arrested, or further, could attempt to set up something else or attempt an escape.
Page 2 of 2 - "By allowing the inmate to have a cell phone, that officer placed everyone here in danger," Stell said about this incident.
Stell said because of situations like this, all jailers employed at the facility are put through training regarding inmate con games.
"These inmates ask officers on a regular basis – they test them," Stell said. "Every day, officers are tempted."
Stell said something as small as a jailer being asked to pass a note can turn into something bigger, such as prisoners asking for cigarettes, drugs or cell phones.
"If any others are involved in this particular incident, we will find them," Stell added.
Prior to Friday's arrest, Stell said George was considered to be a good detention officer who conducted himself professionally at work.
George's next court date on the felony charge hasn't yet been scheduled.
If he is convicted, George could face imprisonment up to two years and/or a fine up to $5,000.
Watch for updates.