Maplewood Lawyer, Corrections Officers Accused of Smuggling Drugs Into Jail

Nine people charged in alleged scheme that exchanged marijuana and cell phones for cash bribes at Essex County Correctional Facility.

U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman
U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman
A Maplewood attorney who once worked in the county prosecutor's office for 20 years was among nine arrested Wednesday for smuggling contraband, including cell phones and marijuana, into a federal pretrial detention facility at the Essex County Jail, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said.

Corrections officers Stephen Solomon, 26, of Irvington, Darsell Davis, 28, Dwayne Harper, 30, and Deidra Harrison, 49, all of Newark, attorney Brian Kapalin, 66, of Maplewood, and Vladimir Sauzereseteo, 40, of East Orange, were each arrested Wednesday morning.

Corrections officer Channel Lespinasse, 25, of Florham Park, was issued a summons. Quasim Nicholas, 29, and Muhammad Subpunallah, 32, were already incarcerated on unrelated federal charges.

According to Fishman, Solomon, a corrections officer at the Essex County Correctional Facility, smuggled contraband—including cell phones, tobacco, and marijuana—to Nichols, an inmate there, in exchange for cash bribes on at least five occasions between October 2013 and April 2014.

Davis and Harper helped Nichols collect the items that were to be smuggled into the jail, Fishman said. Davis then handed off the contraband and cash payments to Solomon, Fishman said. Nichols ultimately sold some of the marijuana and cell phones he received from Solomon to other inmates, Fishman said. 

The inmates purchasing marijuana and cell phones from Nichols had their friends and family pay for the items by sending Western Union money transfers to Nichols, who then enlisted Davis and others to retrieve the payments, according to Fishman. Nichols also used the cell phones he received through this smuggling scheme to communicate with his conspirators, Fishman said.

Lespinasse, another corrections officer at the facility, also smuggled contraband in exchange for a cash bribe, Fishman said. In November 2013, Lespinasse and an associate, Harrison, agreed to smuggle a cell phone to an inmate in the jail in exchange for a cash bribe, Fishman said. 

Harrison accepted a $1,000 cash bribe and a cell phone from an undercover agent in the parking lot of a McDonald’s restaurant in Newark on behalf of Lespinasse, Fishman said. Harrison promised the undercover federal agent the cell phone would be delivered to its recipient—an inmate in the jail. Three days later, Lespinasse delivered the cell phone to the inmate, Fishman said.

Kapalin, who was a member of the Essex County Prosecutor's Office until 2003, used his access to inmates at the facility to smuggle contraband—including marijuana and tobacco—to inmates, including Subpunallah, in exchange for cash payments, Fishman said.

Sauzereseteo, an associate of Subpunallah, delivered the contraband and the cash payments to Kapalin, who then smuggled the contraband into the jail, Fishman said. 

In January 2014, Kapalin spoke with Subpunallah, who at the time was an inmate at the Hudson County Correctional Facility, over a recorded jail phone. Subpunallah asked Kapalin to deliver contraband to an inmate at the Essex County Correctional Facility, Fishman said.

Sauzereseteo was paid $1,650, via Western Union money transfers, which he used to purchase marijuana he delivered to Kapalin, along with a cash payment, Fishman said.

A few days later, Kapalin met an inmate from the Essex County Correctional Facility in the attorney conference room at the jail and delivered the marijuana to the inmate, Fishman said.

A search of the federal pods at the Essex County Correctional Facility on Monday produced nine hidden cellular phones, including one in the light fixture in the ceiling of Nichols’ cell, according to Fishman.

“According to the complaints, the defendants operated contraband marketplace within the walls of the Essex County Correctional Facility,” Fishman said. “Jails are no place for drugs and illicit phones, and it is disappointing that two corrections officers and an attorney allegedly used their authority and access to make them available.” 

Toni May 30, 2014 at 06:44 AM
Obviously, Fishman cut a deal (tweet tweet). Don't people ever think about their families and how this will affect them, especially their children? They are the casualty in this.


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