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Two Ohio men charged with use drone to drop contraband in prison

Two Ohio men charged with use drone to drop contraband in prison

A grand jury indicted two Cleveland-area men, who had accused of using a drone to drop contraband, including drugs and cell phones, into the Southwest Ohio prison yard, last summer.

Two Ohio men charged with use drone to drop contraband in prison

This week, a Warren County grand jury handed up an indictment against Michael Williford, 28, of East Cleveland, and Byron Shepherd, 27, of Richmond Heights, on multiple felony drug charges, including illegal conveyance, drug trafficking, and drug possession, reports Cleveland.com.

The men dropped contraband into the prison yard of the Warren Correctional Institution on two occasions, court documents show. The men are scheduled to appear at an arraignment hearing in Warren County Common Pleas Court on February 12th.

Williford and Shepherd are alleged to be members of the Heartless Felons gang, according to Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell.

Security systems at the prison facility detected the drone flying over the prison yard around 4:15 a.m. on July 29th, said Fornshell. The UAS was tracked down to a nearby Holiday Inn hotel off Interstate 75. Prison officers searched the yard and found a package containing drugs and three cellphones. The packaged was camouflaged with grass that was glued to the outside.

“I kind of jokingly likened it to a prison Easter egg hunt, with the dropping of the drugs in the prison yard at night and then the inmates go out looking for them in the morning like they’re Easter eggs,” Fornshell said.

The Holiday Inn hotel has been under surveillance since the first drop on July 29th. A second drop attempt was made on August 11th. Williford and Shepherd were identified as suspects by investigators on the scene.

The investigators obtained a search warrant for the hotel room, in which they found a drone, drugs, packaging materials, and other contraband, Fornshell said.

Video files that were discovered during the search showed drone footage of the contraband drops on July 29 and August 11 over Warren Correctional as well as earlier footage of drone flights over the Mansfield Correctional Institution and Ross Correctional Institution Fornshell said.

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Photo creditL David Petkiewicz, cleveland.com

Haye Kesteloo

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