HOUTZDALE – A corrections officer is behind bars after being accused of conspiring to take drugs into the State Correctional Institution at Houtzdale.
Marvin C. Harris Jr., 30, of Clearfield is charged with felony conspiracy-contraband/controlled substance and criminal use of a communication facility.
The charges were filed Wednesday by an agent with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections’ Bureau of Investigations and Intelligence.
On Tuesday the agent was contacted by the security office at SCI Houtzdale after it was learned that Harris had conspired to introduce contraband for a payment of $2,500.
As part of the investigation, the agent interviewed a confidential source who said that on July 19, he/she and Harris went into a large closet to discuss the introduction of the contraband.
Harris reportedly said numerous inmates had asked him to introduce contraband at the prison, but none would ever produce payment.
The source also said Harris had purchased a printer in an effort to produce documents mimicking legal paperwork that he soaked with synthetic cannabinoids because he has his “own people.”
He/she said Harris related that he had 50 pages of paper(s) at his residence saturated with synthetic cannabinoids as well as 450 sublingual films of buprenorphine, also known as Suboxone.
Harris allegedly said he’d introduce these drugs in exchange for $2,500. And the source said he/she agreed and indicated he/she would arrange for a civilian on the street to make payment.
The source provided Harris with contact information for a civilian to contact for payment, and Harris advised he wouldn’t introduce the contraband without payment first.
After, he/she began placing telephone calls to the civilian so they’d expect contact from Harris. The civilian confirmed when Harris called and that arrangements were made for the $2,500 payment.
On Tuesday the source agreed to place another call and it was learned the civilian didn’t have full payment and didn’t meet with Harris for that reason.
The agent reviewed all telephone calls in relation to this case and determined communications were consistent with the information provided by the source.
The agent also obtained and reviewed surveillance footage confirming the timeframe that the source and Harris were inside the large closet on July 19.
Upon direction, the source contacted the civilian and related their assistance was no longer needed, and that someone else would meet with Harris to make payment.
On Tuesday evening, the agent sent a text message to Harris from a DOC-owned cellular phone. He informed Harris that all the money was collected, and he wanted to arrange a meeting place and time.
At approximately 9:18 p.m., he missed a call from Harris and Harris reportedly sent a text message, saying: “come now if you can or early tomorrow [because] I have to work.”
Then, at approximately 9:42 p.m., the agent missed a second call from Harris. The agent identified the number from which Harris called as a Bandwidth telephone number.
Based on experience in criminal investigations, he was aware Bandwidth allows users to select a telephone number of their choice to communicate via the Internet.
He was also aware that civilians and DOC staff who assist with the introduction of contraband often utilize a Voice Over Internet Protocol telephone number to avoid detection.
At approximately 1:29 a.m. Wednesday, the agent sent a text to Harris, saying he’d call around 9 a.m., with plans to meet around 12 p.m., which received no response.
At approximately 9:12 a.m., the DOC agent – with assistance from a Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General undercover agent – placed a telephone call to Harris.
At this time, the OAG undercover agent spoke with Harris and made arrangements to meet at Sheetz in Clearfield Borough to make payment.
At approximately 12:12 p.m., he/she met Harris with recorded funds that totaled $2,500 and that belonged to the DOC Bureau of Investigations and Intelligence.
DOC and OAG agents reportedly observed the undercover agent provide Harris an envelope. Once he took it into his possession, agents converged and he was taken into police custody.
Harris is being held in the Clearfield County Jail in lieu of $100,000 bail, and scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing at 8:30 a.m. July 29 during centralized court.