Recovered drone was bringing drugs, cell phones to Lewis Prison

 – In a first for Arizona prisons, guards at Lewis Prison in Buckeye recovered a crashed drone that was trying to deliver drugs and cell phones to inmates.

Similar incidents have been happening around the country, and now, it has happened in the Valley. Keeping contraband out of prisons is a top priority for the state’s Department of Corrections, but technology presented a new challenge at Lewis Prison.

Investigators believe a drone tried to make a delivery to the prison yard in late September, but it crashed, and guards found the device, as well as the contraband.

“Drones typically are quiet in nature, this particular incident was under the cover of darkness,” said Jim Currier with Lewis Prison criminal investigations.

In exclusive pictures provided to FOX 10 Phoenix, one can see the crash scene, along with the drone in pieces, in an area inside the prison fence but outside the prison yard. It’s a place guards call “No Man’s Land” for inmates. Next to the scene is a bright orange knapsack containing contraband, including marijuana and cell phones.

“If you’re talking about the analogy of a file in a cake, not likely, but there are some rather crafty ways that individuals will conceal items to get them into a facility,” said Currier.

This is believed to be the first time this has ever happened in an Arizona State Prison, but there have been at least a dozen other attempts around the country, over the past five years. Currier said they are trying to track down the drone pilot.

“Basically, we have to rely upon forensic evidence, such as DNA fingerprints, that will hopefully lead us to the person or persons that possess that drone,” said Currier. “Also within the drone, there’s a box that provides GPS information”

Drugs might make sense, but as for cell phones they are most likely not being used to call mom and dad.

“Cell phones are extremely problematic, simply because we can’t monitor them,” said Currier. “They will continue their criminal enterprise or orchestrate the introduction of contraband.”

The phones can also go for big money inside prison walls.

Currier: “Prison value is quite elevated, for example, a cell phone a smart phone, I’ve been told a tracphone you can buy for a minimal amount can go from upwards to $800 to a $1,000.”

If anyone is caught, they will face a Class 5 felony that carries a one to five year prison sentence

Officials said as criminals start to use more technology, they are exploring ramping up their technological defenses. Right now, however, a watchful eye is their first line of defense against future drone deliveries.