A 77-year-old attorney from Texas stands accused of using work-related visits to a county jail as an opportunity to smuggle in legal paperwork allegedly laced with ecstasy and synthetic marijuana to inmates over an extended period, law enforcement authorities revealed on Monday.
Ronald Lewis, the accused attorney, was taken into custody on Friday upon arriving at the Harris County Jail in Houston for a visit with an inmate, announced Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez during a press conference.
At the time of his arrest, Lewis was found in possession of 11 sheets of paper suspected to be contaminated with narcotics, as reported by authorities.
Lewis now faces two charges of bringing prohibited substances into a correctional facility. After posting bonds totaling $15,000, he is currently out on bail. An attorney representing Lewis did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday. Records from the State Bar of Texas indicate that Lewis has been a licensed attorney since 1982.
The arrest came following an extensive months-long investigation conducted by the jail-based Criminal Investigations and Security Division, a newly established unit aimed at addressing a surge in drug overdoses at the largest county jail in Texas, as stated by Gonzalez.
The new unit commenced its inquiry in June, following two inmate deaths that were potentially drug-related. Investigators probed information suggesting that illegal narcotics were being introduced into the jail concealed within paperwork sprayed or dipped with a chemical compound, explained Sheriff’s Office Lt. Jay Wheeler.
Leads ultimately led them to Ronald Lewis.
According to authorities, Lewis is suspected of having visited 14 inmates at the jail from July to this month, providing them with sheets of drug-laced papers disguised as legal mail or other legal documents. He is believed to have received payments ranging from $250 to $500 per transaction for smuggling the papers, as authorities disclosed.
Throughout the investigation, approximately 154 sheets of paper believed to contain narcotics were confiscated, noted Wheeler.
The authorities are currently collaborating with the Texas Rangers to ascertain whether any of the narcotics introduced into the jail by Lewis may have contributed to inmate deaths, Wheeler added.
While there are suspicions that other attorneys may have engaged in similar activities, Gonzalez emphasized that such behavior is not believed to be widespread. He stated that the sheriff’s office will thoroughly investigate any allegations and hold accountable those who choose illegal methods.
Gonzalez noted that the county jail, like many others across the nation, has seen an increase in overdoses. This year alone, the county jail has reported at least 18 inmate deaths, some of which are suspected to be drug-related.
To curtail the influx of illegal drugs into the jail, the sheriff’s office plans to implement a new system for digitizing inmate documents, including legal paperwork and letters.
“We’re going to continue to raise the bar and do everything we can to make sure that we’re keeping a safe facility, as safe as possible,” Gonzalez affirmed.