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Search for inmate escapee leads to alleged smuggling operation run by exotic dancers

Pasco County Sheriff’s Office workers prepare a display of contraband for Wednesday’s afternoon news conference.
Published Jan. 15, 2015

NEW PORT RICHEY — If inmate Jason Adams hadn't escaped from his roadside work detail in September, Pasco sheriff's deputies might not have found the crushed Four Loko cans or the spice packets or the Straw-Ber-Ritas.

They might not have interviewed the two exotic dancers who told investigators they had romantic relations with inmates on the work detail and, authorities say, smuggled alcohol, tobacco and other contraband to the men.

But Adams did escape, walking away from a work detail along State Road 54 in Lutz, only to be discovered riding a bicycle in Hills­borough County the next day.

So on Wednesday, in front of two tables overflowing with Scooby Snax spice packets and other contraband, Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco announced the arrests of the women and the correctional officer who, he said, allowed the illegal activity.

"Prison is supposed to be tough," Nocco said. "He was allowing it to be basically a party out there." Nocco described a work detail that was more play than work, including conjugal visits and beer drinking in the woods.

Former Department of Corrections Officer Henry Randolph Blackwelder, 45, was charged Tuesday with official misconduct, unlawful compensation for official behavior and smuggling contraband into a state correctional facility. Jessica Hope Morgan, 24, and Stacey Ann Petty, 46, also were charged with smuggling contraband into a state correctional facility.

Morgan and Petty, both of Hudson, were exotic dancers at Calendar Girls on U.S. 19 and worked together at a 7-Eleven store.

Blackwelder of Bushnell was employed as a Sumter Correctional Institute officer, responsible for overseeing the work detail of five men in Pasco County.

When Adams walked off on Sept. 8, Blackwelder waited several hours to notify the Sheriff's Office, Nocco said. At the scene, an investigator found spice concealed "inside the rectums of inmates" on the crew, as well as other contraband, according to an arrest report.

Not only did Blackwelder allow contraband, the sheriff said, but he received tobacco, alcohol, food and cash for his role in the operation. Sometimes, a detective said, Blackwelder supplied spice himself. He ate leftovers from food the women brought the inmates, Nocco said, and let inmates wander off to use the restroom.

"We know when they went off, they were doing other things in the field," Nocco said. "This guy was clearly not doing his job and was putting the safety of our citizens at risk."

Blackwelder was being held on $40,000 bail.

The Sheriff's Office discovered the Sept. 8 escape wasn't Adams' first. He had previously walked off a job on Aug. 28 to buy Four Loko, cigars and other products from a gas station that he apparently intended to sell when he returned to prison.

Blackwelder was in charge of that crew and resigned when questioned by the Sheriff's Office.

Detective David Boyer said the seized contraband "only scratches the surface" of what inmates had nearly unlimited access to.

"This stuff is unacceptable," he said. "You put this contraband in the hands of convicted felons that are sentenced to the Department of Corrections for serious, serious charges — attempted murder on law enforcement, attempted murder, serious theft and violent crimes — it's scary."

The women became involved when Petty's car broke down in November 2013 and a work crew helped her, Nocco said. She struck up a romance with Adams and, later, with several inmates on another detail.

Soon, Petty and Morgan started bringing food, drugs and alcohol to the crew about once a week, according to the Sheriff's Office, an activity that continued even after Blackwelder resigned.

The Sheriff's Office investigation is ongoing.

"Pasco County doesn't fool around," Nocco said. "We will absolutely go after you."

Contact Claire McNeill at cmcneill@tampabay.com or (813) 909-4613.

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