Miami-Dade jail officer accused of smuggling in cellphones, drugs

 

dovalle@MiamiHerald.com

Known by inmates as “The Love Doctor,” a corrections officer was arrested Friday on charges of secretly smuggling cellphones and drugs into the Miami-Dade County Jail in exchange for cash.

The arrest of Miami-Dade Corrections Officer Lavar Lewis, 27, was the culmination of a 19-month investigation into persistent smuggling problems at the jail. At least three other corrections officers have been scrutinized in a probe that is still active.

Lewis’ arrest is another black eye for a jail system that has been plagued by recent scandals and remains under federal oversight for shoddy conditions and poor medical care.

“When any law enforcement official, in this case a correctional officer, betrays his position of trust, our entire community suffers,” said Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.

At least one inmate found with a cellphone, Benson Cadet, is part of a notorious gang known as the Terrorist Boys, whose members are facing trial and the death penalty in a dozen murders and other shootings.

Lewis, a day shift officer since his hire in November 2008, has been suspended since September 2013. He was charged with unlawful compensation and conspiracy to introduce contraband into a jail and was being held Friday night at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center in West Miami-Dade.

Public correction prosecutors and jail internal affairs investigators say they uncovered the scheme by sifting through reams of cellphone records and persuading inmates to inform on Lewis. Investigators also watched him as he made a suspected money exchange with a girlfriend of one inmate.

Several inmates told investigators that Lewis was seen or known to be the main source of contraband cellphones, according to a warrant filed by Miami-Dade Corrections Sgt. Rene Vila. Records showed his cellphone was used to communicate with at least 40 inmates at the jail over the months.

Then in September, investigators learned that Lewis would be meeting with a female friend of inmate Victor Ramirez to accept a cellphone, dubbed a ‘pop tart” in inmate coded speak, and the methamphetamine known as Molly.

Undercover detectives spied Lewis meeting with the woman, Diane Clohesy, near a South Miami-Dade Taco Bell, apparently making the exchange. At the same time, investigators believe, Ramirez called Clohesy from behind bars — and she put Lewis on the phone as the two met. Clohesy has not been charged.

According to the warrant, Ramirez later admitted to striking a deal with Lewis to smuggle in the phones and drugs, with the help of Clohesy and two other women on the outside. The total payment for one exchange: $1,000.

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