SAN MATEO COUNTY, Calif. (KTVU/BCN) - By Bay City News Service
Ten people, including five female jail inmates, are accused of being involved in a scheme to distribute methamphetamine inside San Mateo County's Maple Street Correctional Center, sheriff's deputies said today.
After a month long investigation, investigators with the San Mateo County Narcotics Task Force and the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office Corrections Division determined that the suspects were sending and receiving mail laced with methamphetamine.
The investigation began when corrections staff intercepted numerous letters and cards that had allegedly been dipped in liquefied meth and sent to a number of female inmates at the Maple Street jail.
Detective Salvador Zuno of the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office says, "One of our Sheriff's correctional officers, while distributing the mail, noticed that a piece of mail appeared to be tampered with."
Investigators believe the suspects hoped that by dipping the paper in meth and mailing it to the jail, the crimes would go unnoticed, according to sheriff's officials.
Zuno says, "Once it's liquefied, essentially any paper source can absorb that material."
The investigation later turned up more "meth mail." Authorities now believe suspects on the outside, were sending the drug-laced paper to female inmates for sale on the inside.
People apparently "chew" the paper to ingest the drugs.
On Dec. 22, Narcotics Task Force members served search warrants in Burlingame, Daly City and San Francisco, which resulted in the seizure of more than 10 ounces meth and several thousand dollars in drugs money, according to sheriff's officials.
During the Burlingame warrant search, officers arrested Daly City resident Richard Wood, 54, on suspicion of possession and sales of a controlled substance, transporting a controlled substance, criminal conspiracy and bringing drugs into a correctional facility. His bail was set at $700,000, sheriff's officials said.
Additionally, five female inmates were re-arrested on suspicion of attempting to bring drugs into a correctional facility, attempted possession of a controlled substance and criminal conspiracy. They were identified as San Francisco residents Rhiannon Lawler, 37, and Sara Regan, 34; San Mateo
resident Shelby Myers, 26; East Palo resident Peweli Pinkston, 27; and Jean Stoller, 36, of Pacifica.
Furthermore, four suspects in the case remain outstanding and are being sought by deputies. They've been identified as San Francisco residents Ephraim Manlapaz, 44, and Nancy Sanchez, 32; Pacifica resident Agnes Banquerifo-Taylor, 47; and Bridgette Chavis-Damon, 38, of Redwood City.
As for the five inmates who have been re-arrested in connection with the crimes, they could get years tacked on to their sentences. They are set for a preliminary hearing on January 8th.
Guidotti says, "Some people think that they're going to get away with it in the jail, but the fact of the matter is, there are more eyes and ears on people who are in custody than one would imagine. So it's really a foolish undertaking."
"This case highlights the ongoing commitment of the Sheriff's Office to running safe correctional facilities. We will continue to investigate and take action on any criminal activity that endangers the
safety of our staff or the safety of the inmates in our custody," Capt. Paul Kunkel of the Maple Street Correctional Center said in a statement.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact Special Agent Rich Daly at (650) 573-3991 or at firstname.lastname@example.org Tipsters who wish to remain anonymous can call the sheriff's anonymous tip line at (800) 547-2700.