SOUTH LEBANON TOWNSHIP, LEBANON COUNTY, Pa -- A prison guard faces charges for his alleged involvement in a drug trafficking ring at the Lebanon County Correctional Facility, Pennsylvania State Police said Monday.
According to police, Patricio Bernal allegedly smuggled controlled substances including suboxone, naloxone and methamphetamine into the facility on September 3.
During two interviews with Bernal, authorities learned that the alleged smuggling occurred at least one time prior and he was paid to bring the drugs into the facility.
“Things like this happen and they happen all the time unfortunately. I don’t know what the method was as to why he would want to participate in this but it is a little discouraging," said Trooper David Beohm, PIO with Pennsylvania State Police.
“For an employee of the correctional facility to be involved in trying to help to distribute drugs in the prison is very disheartening," said David Arnold, District Attorney for Lebanon County.
Further investigation identified the alleged involvement of three others: Julie Keller and her two sons, Jacob Keller and Jonathan Keller.
“The drug problem is such an epidemic at this point and time, a lot of people who are incarcerated, the reason they are down there in the first place is they commit crimes due to their drug addictions," added Arnold.
Julie Keller is accused of supplying the drugs to Jacob Keller, who would then package the drugs and wrap them up in black electrical tape. State Police allege that the package would then be transported to Bernal, who would pass it along to Jonathan Keller, an inmate at the facility.
Jonathan Keller allegedly distributed the drugs and organized payments from his fellow inmates' friends and family outside of the jail, State Police added. State Police said that payments would be made to Julie Keller by ways of cash, Western Union and other currency transmission applications. Some of the proceeds would be deposited onto Jonathan Keller's prison account, State Police noted.
Bernal was taken into custody and arraigned on possession of a controlled substance, possession with intent to deliver, contraband in a correctional institute and other related charges Wednesday. He is currently out on bail.
Julie and Jacob Keller were arrested Friday after a search warrant was executed at their residence. State Police found approximately two ounces of heroin, a few grams of methamphetamine, suboxone and other controlled substances. Related items which indicated the alleged distribution and sale of said drugs were also found, according to State Police.
Julie Keller is charged with possession of a controlled substance, possession with intent to deliver, contraband in a correctional institute and other related offenses. She was unable to post $100,000 bail and has been placed at the Lebanon County Correctional Facility.
Jacob Keller was placed at the facility on a probation violation. He also faces charges of possession of a controlled substance, possession with intent to deliver, contraband in a correctional institute and other related offenses.
Charges against Jonathan Keller are pending but they will include possession, possession with intent to deliver, contraband in a correctional institute and other related offenses, State Police said.
“We’re not going to tolerate this, we’re not going to tolerate inmates, guards or people from the outside trying to get drugs into the jail so we’re going to move forward and seek this very aggressively," said Arnold.
The District Attorney's Office of Lebanon County says they hope to work alongside the warden and state police to come up with ways to prevent incidents like this from happening the future.