A Texas defense attorney has been arrested and accused of being a “major supplier” of dangerous narcotics to prison by hiding inmate papers containing drugs, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office said.
Ronald Henry Lewis, 77, was charged with two counts of introducing a prohibited substance into a correctional facility, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez announced during a news conference Monday.
Gonzalez said the sheriff’s office created the Criminal Investigations and Jail Security Division in March to stop the flow of drugs into the jail after its medical clinic was “seeing more and more people needing treatment emergency for what appeared to be emergency overdoses.”
In June, following the deaths of two inmates, possibly linked to overdoses, an investigation was launched into the smuggling of narcotics into the prison in the form of paper “sprayed or dipped in a chemical compound”, said Lt. Jay Wheeler.
A month later, the unit received information that an attorney was bringing illegal narcotics to several inmates at the prison.
Investigators determined that a lawyer visited detainees and handed them sheets of paper, often disguised as legal mail or legal documents, containing narcotics such as ecstasy and synthetic marijuana. In exchange, inmates would pay between $250 and $500 for the newspapers, Gonzalez and Wheeler said.
Information from the jail led investigators to identify Lewis and an arrest warrant was issued on November 9.
“When Mr. Lewis visited the prison last Friday, November 17, our team was ready. They arrested Mr. Lewis and found him carrying several sheets of paper contaminated with a substance that is currently being tested to confirm if it is indeed an illegal narcotic,” Gonzalez said.
At the time of his arrest, Lewis was found with 11 sheets of paper believed to contain drugs, Wheeler said.
From July to November of this year, Lewis visited a total of 14 inmates and a total of 154 sheets of paper containing narcotics were confiscated from the prison, Wheeler said.
Wheeler said investigators are working with the Texas Rangers to see if narcotics brought by Lewis into the prison led to an inmate’s death.
Officials said Monday that it appears other lawyers are involved in drug cases surfacing at the prison and that the investigation is ongoing.
Lewis has been a licensed attorney since 1982, according to the State Bar of Texas.
He has since been released from jail after posting $15,000 bail. NBC News has reached out to his attorney for comment.
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