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Former McConnell Unit Correction Officers in Custody

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CORPUS CHRISTI (Kiii News) -

17 former Texas Department of Criminal Justice correction officers were arrested, along with 12 others, in relation to a four-year racketeering investigation.

A sealed indictment was unsealed and announced Wednesday, following the arrests of 22 of those individuals, who were detained in a joint operation between federal, state and local law enforcement personnel based on criminal charges in that indictment. Seven individuals named in the indictment were already in custody, making it a total of 29 defendants.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, the arrests were made to break the "culture of corruption" that permeated the McConnell Unit Prison between 2005-present, adding that authorities worked together to "disrupt and dismantle the violent criminal gangs who were profiting through the corruption of guards at the prison."

According to the indictment, 13 former TDCJ correction officers took part in a criminal enterprise, engaging in bribery and narcotics trafficking. It goes on to describe how those guards would help McConnell Unit prisoners to get their hands on cell phones and drugs, to be sold to other inmates once inside the prison system.

Also, the phones were allegedly used to conduct criminal activities outside of the prison.

The four-year investigation began in 2009 when Aryan Circle gang members were arrested trying to transport stolen vehicles from Corpus Christi to Brownsville, where they would then be smuggled across the Mexican border to be sold to Mexican Cartel members. That operation was allegedly coordinated by McConnell Unit inmates, using those illegal cell phones.

That investigation, dubbed Operation Prison Cell, was conducted by multiple agencies, many of which took part in Wednesday's announcement of the indictment. Among those who made the announcement were U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, agents from Homeland Security Investigations, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and even Corpus Christi Police Department Chief Floyd Simpson.

The following defendants were listed in the indictment:

  • Stephanie Deming
  • Christy Nesloney
  • Kimberly Marie Koenig
  • James Randal Standlea
  • Desiree Silguero
  • Lela Ysolde Hinojosa
  • Emmanuel Cotto
  • Megan Brook Morales
  • Lakeisha Jeanette Reid
  • Arturo Salas
  • Jaime Jorge Garza
  • Oscar Juraidini  
  • Yvonne Sandoval
  • Maria Fernanda Hidalgo
  • Melissa Lozano
  • Lindsey Elaine Savage
  • Aaron Trevino
  • Christopher Karl Owens
  • Jamar Tremayne Green
  • Donte Aubry Jones
  • Casey Simmons
  • Justin Leonard
  • Juanita Beltran Mendez
  • Nancy Star Onega
  • Donna Sorise
  • Craig Owens
  • Maria Rose Rodriguez
  • Karla Sanchez
  • Juan Ledezma
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