Saturday, February 24, 2018
Public safety

Three men charged with smuggling contraband into the Pinellas County Jail

LARGO — Inmate Phillip William Henderson spoke with conviction and a tinge of panic Monday evening when he dialed out from the Pinellas County Jail. He knew the call was being recorded, but this was urgent.

The nylon cord authorities say he and another inmate dangled from a sixth-floor rain drainage hole to smuggle in jail contraband had snapped. A bag containing approximately $1,500 in banned items had fallen out of sight.

Authorities say Pinellas Park resident Eric Scott Snook, 41, had attached the plastic bag filled with marijuana, tobacco, lighters and other items to the cord so the two inmates could reel it in. But by the time the string broke, Snook had already left.

"Eric, listen to me, dog," Henderson said in the prepaid call to Snook. "You've got to come back. We can't leave it (lying) on the ground, bro."

No matter how much Henderson pleaded, Snook wasn't coming back.

"Man, what the h- - - was I thinking?" Snook responded near the end of the call.

Investigators found the bag perched on a fourth-floor overhang shortly after 9 p.m. Monday, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said at a news conference at the jail Thursday.

Based on tips from other inmates, an investigation was launched and two of the "fishermen" in the jail were caught, Gualtieri said: Henderson, 38, and Mark "Red" Keating, 45, both of St. Petersburg.

They arrested Snook, 41, at his home Wednesday evening.

Authorities believe that Henderson and Keating smuggled contraband into the jail up to nine times over the course of two months. An investigation is still ongoing.

All three men face felony charges of introducing and possessing contraband in a county detention facility.

"I never would've envisioned this … this is really pretty brazen," Gualtieri said.

Henderson and Keating traded the contraband to other inmates in exchange for goods sold at the commissary store, where a single cigarette can cost as much as $4, authorities said.

The balance in Henderson's commissary account is currently -$39.48, while Keating's balance is $10.21, according to jail records.

Keating has been in jail since March 2012 on charges of grand theft, armed bank robbery and two counts of violation of probation. Henderson was jailed in June on grand theft and petty theft charges.

The jail, which installed $215,000 full-body scanners two months ago to help detect banned items, is exploring ways to prevent contraband from similarly entering the facility in the future.

Work crews this week began installing a 6-foot-tall chain-link fence around the outside courtyard where the string dangled to the ground, Gualtieri said.

"When you think you've seen it all, something (like this) happens," he said. "We seem to have had a lot of firsts lately."

Matt McKinney can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4156. Twitter: @mmckinne17.

     
     
Comments
Police: Man, 60, arrested for fleeing from fatal Largo pedestrian crash

Police: Man, 60, arrested for fleeing from fatal Largo pedestrian crash

LARGO — A 60-year-old man who police said was the driver in a fatal pedestrian hit-and-run on East Bay Drive from three days prior was arrested by Largo Police on Saturday, the department said.Victor Bonavita was arrested on three charges in relation...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Sheriff: Roads reopen after Tampa crash results in natural gas leak near Citrus Park Mall

Sheriff: Roads reopen after Tampa crash results in natural gas leak near Citrus Park Mall

TAMPA — Officials reopened roads near Citrus Park Mall Saturday evening that had been closed in the afternoon for a natural gas leak caused by a car crash, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said. The Sheriff’s Office and Hillsborough County Fi...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Police: Male motorcyclist crashed, then the driver was run over by two cars

Police: Male motorcyclist crashed, then the driver was run over by two cars

TAMPA — A male motorcyclist died early Saturday morning on the Courtney Campbell Causeway, the Tampa Police Department said.About 1:35 a.m., the victim rode his motorcycle west on the Courtney Campbell at high speeds, police said. The motorcycle stru...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Broward sheriff’s office launches internal investigations amid questions after Parkland massacre

Broward sheriff’s office launches internal investigations amid questions after Parkland massacre

The Broward County Sheriff’s Office said it is investigating allegations that multiple deputies failed to enter Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, after the shooting rampage there, adding to the mounting internal probes examin...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Police: Registered sex offender who attacked Marriott hotel worker arrested

Police: Registered sex offender who attacked Marriott hotel worker arrested

TAMPA — A registered sex offender was arrested early Saturday morning by Tampa Police in connection with a hotel worker who was attacked earlier this week, the department said.John Eckhard, 41, was arrested about 1:30 a.m. on charges of aggravated ba...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Parents accused of torturing their 13 children face new charges

Parents accused of torturing their 13 children face new charges

The 13 Turpin siblings gained their freedom last month after one of them escaped through a window and called 911, ending years of imprisonment under parents accused of starving and chaining them to their beds in a putrid home not far from Los Angeles...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Concerned about gun posts, dad turns in son’s phones. Cops find something else.

Concerned about gun posts, dad turns in son’s phones. Cops find something else.

After the Parkland school shooting that horrified the nation, a Miami father told police he was worried about his son’s disturbing posts with guns on Instagram and Snapchat.So he gave investigators his son’s smartphones — and they found child porn, c...
Published: 02/24/18
Trump processes Fla. students’ grief as president, parent

Trump processes Fla. students’ grief as president, parent

WASHINGTON — Once again, it was the images of children that propelled President Donald Trump to act. Trump spent the first days after the Feb. 14 school shooting in Florida fixated on the grieving and anguished students and parents. While at his Flor...
Published: 02/24/18
Gun legislation unease looms over Tampa gun show attendees, vendors

Gun legislation unease looms over Tampa gun show attendees, vendors

TAMPA — Hundreds lined up minutes after one of the state’s biggest gun shows opened its doors Saturday morning at the Florida State Fairgrounds.About 400 people from the entrance stood Austin Nichols, a 19-year-old looking to get a deal on bullets. H...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Restricting bullets rather than guns might cut toll of school shootings, some experts say

Restricting bullets rather than guns might cut toll of school shootings, some experts say

This is the sad new math in the age of school slaughter. If one student comes to school with a firearm and 10 ammunition magazines filled with 30 bullets each, and another comes with a firearm and 30 magazines filled with 10 bullets each, who can cr...
Published: 02/23/18