The authorities say they have arrested two men in connection to the first known plot in Maryland involving a new type of crime—using a drone to smuggle drugs, tobacco, and pornography into a prison.
It was reported that two law enforcement officers discovered the four-rotor mini-helicopter on the rear passenger seat of a Ford pickup truck parked outside the state prison complex near Cumberland.
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A handgun and six plastic-wrapped packages, which contained contraband items including packets of synthetic marijuana, rolling papers, buprenorphine and pornographic DVDs, were found on the drone.
“You can’t make this stuff up,” Corrections Secretary Stephen T. Moyer told reporters.
Other Similar Cases
Similar cases of contraband delivery via drone have been reported in other states including Ohio and South Carolina. The issue has become a hot topic at a recent national conference of correctional officials, said Pete France, deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.
Moyer, in his opinion, referred to the threat of contraband drone deliveries “an emerging problem” for the prison system and said officials were researching ways to prevent it. He shared that drone-detecting technology would cost between $350,000 and $400,000 per institution.
“Contraband fuels violence and we are committed to keeping it out for the safety of our staff and the inmates,” noted Moyer.
According to records, the two suspects were identified as Thaddeus Shortz, 25, of Knoxville in Frederick County and Keith Brian Russell, 29, of Silver Spring. Each faces multiple drug- and gun-related charges in connection with the incident.
The authority explained they set up a surveillance operation outside the prison complex, which found two men, later identified as Shortz and Russell, step out of a Ford pickup, looking around using binoculars.
When the men were stopped by the police, the officers found the drone on a passenger seat of the truck, and the remote control was on the floor behind the driver’s seat.
Shortz, while responding to the investigation, told police that the other man “was flying things over the wall including K-2, Suboxone, tobacco, and pornographic movies to an inmate.”
Police said they found 11 DVDs with pornographic titles; 51 packages of Scooby Snax, a suspected synthetic marijuana; 116 packages of buprenorphine, suspected tobacco; and hundreds of rolling papers. A .40-caliber handgun was discovered under a seat.
Shortz and Russell each had a “walkie-talkie type radio device,” authorities revealed. The court records showed that Shortz was released on bail, while Russell was being held at the Allegany County Detention Center on $100,000 bond.
Authorities confirmed they were preparing charges against an inmate suspected of involvement in the alleged plot. Though the inmate’s name has not been released, Moyer confirmed that contraband was found in his cell.
Matt Scassero, the head of the University of Maryland’s drone testing center, affirmed that there have been cases of successful airborne delivery of contraband to prisons, and he expects to see more in the future.
“Just like any other technology, you have good uses and bad uses,” he says.
However, Scassero says new laws might be needed to deal with such plots. He foresees prison systems hiring companies that are adapting military technology to detect and stop drones.