Former correctional officer sentenced in smuggling case

 

WILMINGTON — A former correction officer at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna was sentenced to 30 months federal incarceration Wednesday after a prior guilty plea to commit extortion under color of official right.

Paul Hursey, 49, of Dover, was paid for smuggling drugs, including heroin, and 30 cell phones to 11 inmates, David C. Weiss, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Delaware said in a news release,

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Leonard P. Stark rendered the sentence.

Following the sentencing, Acting U.S. Attorney Weiss stated, “The defendant was charged with keeping JTVCC safe. Instead, he committed an abuse of trust that made the prison manifestly less safe — where his charge was to protect the inmates and his colleagues, the defendant’s prison smuggling endangered them.

“My office is committed to investigating and prosecuting corrupt prison employees. Today’s sentence should serve as a deterrent for correction officers who would smuggle contraband into a prison.”

The Delaware Department of Correction teamed with the FBI during a joint investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Edmond Falgowski prosecuted the case.

“Few things threaten our society more than public servants who betray their oath for personal gain,” said Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson of the FBI’s Baltimore Division in the announcement.

“The FBI in Delaware, along with our state and federal partners, are sending a strong message today that we will not tolerate corruption in the prison system which tarnishes the good work of the dedicated and committed correctional employees.”

Investigation recap

The charge fell under the federal jurisdiction under the Hobbs Act. The original criminal complaint indicated that extortion brings charges that carry a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

The FBI said investigation began on July 10, 2015, when a DOC lieutenant “received a signed, unsolicited handwritten letter written from a JTVCC inmate in which he claimed to know about a corrupt corrections officer who is smuggling drugs and cell phones into the JTVCC inmate population in exchange for monetary payments.”

Investigators found a 10-digit cell phone number listed as assigned to Hursey, the FBI said in documents,

While the inmate could not initially identify the correction officer in question by name, the FBI said, he eventually picked Hursey from several photos, including his Delaware driver’s license.

An inmate described Hursey as supposedly “making a lot of money” on the midnight to 8 a.m. shift, the FBI said. A “rover” status on the job allowed him wide access to inmates, according to authorities.

In 2016, the DOC said a cellular detection device contributed to a 96 percent decrease in the amount of devices that entered JTVCC in the aftermath.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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