AUSTIN (KXAN) — Newly released, sealed federal court records revealed inmates, civilians and multiple Texas Department of Criminal Justice correctional officers connected to the Drug Trafficking Organization (DTO).
“DTO trafficked fentanyl, methamphetamine, and synthetic cannabinoids into Texas Department of Criminal Justice correctional facilities across Texas, using correctional officers and the mail to smuggle narcotics, cell phones, and other contraband into the correctional facilities,” according to the criminal indictment.
The partially redacted criminal indictment listed 13 people currently facing federal charges related to possession and distribution of narcotics, money laundering and identity theft. The names of ten people were redacted.
The remaining three were identified in the indictment as TDCJ correctional officer Osawzuwa Williams, Rosa Miller and Ashley Arriaga, two non-incarcerated members of DTO.
KXAN reached out to the attorneys representing Williams and Miller. An attorney representing Arriaga has yet to be listed.
Miller’s attorney, Bristol C. Myers, told KXAN it is early in the case, and they have yet to see any evidence from the government to back up the allegations made in the indictment.
“Many conspiracy cases are built upon information and testimony from people desperate to save their own necks. Whether this is one of those cases remains to be seen,” Myers said.
KXAN will update this story once a response is received from Williams attorney.
Additionally, KXAN requested a comment from TDCJ regarding the charges filed against Williams, and requested Williams’ licensing records from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE).
“The agency takes a firm stance against any individuals who attempt to bring in or fund dangerous contraband. TDCJ works diligently to stop contraband and illegal drugs from entering its facilities. Recently, TDCJ implemented a systemwide lockdown to combat these challenges. During this lockdown, intensified searches of all facilities were conducted to intercept and confiscate contraband. Additionally, all persons, including staff, undergo comprehensive searches prior to entering facilities. These searches include the use of narcotic dogs and innovative technology. “Texas Department of Criminal Justice
According to the indictment, fentanyl-soaked paper sheets, methamphetamine, cell phones and thousands of dollars were delivered to Williams and at least one other correctional officer to be smuggled into TDCJ’s John B. Connally and Allred Units in Karnes County.
The indictment shows three separate deliveries totaling more than 1,400 grams (over three pounds) of fentanyl-soaked paper sheets and methamphetamine combined.
“Members of the DTO could sell a single sheet of drug-soaked paper for up to $1,000 once smuggled into the correctional facility,” court records said.
The indictment explained inmate members of DTO would use peer-to-peer payment platforms, such as Zelle or CashApp, to transfer money to non-incarcerated DTO members.
From January 2022 to November 2023, Miller transferred nearly $333,000 to her bank account using these payment platforms, according to the indictment.
In addition to the narcotics and contraband associated with Williams, Miller and Arriaga, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) seized more than 600 grams of narcotics, as well as manufacturing materials and envelopes addressed to TDCJ inmates from stash houses associated with members of DTO, court records said.
University of Texas Law Professor Brian Perez-Daple said situations like this are not uncommon.
“Especially in state prisons and there’s been a lot of investigations into these in recent years,” Perez-Daple said. “Also, a lot of arrests.”
The indictment said officers were often paid thousands of dollars to do this.
“It’s a very attractive proposition for someone who is not paid enough, who is working in a very dangerous and a stressful environment and now has the opportunity to make a lot more money,” Perez-Daple said.
St. Edward’s Criminal Justice Professor Carsten Andresen said issues like this will persist until salaries are addressed.
“The Texas prison system, for over 100 years, has had major, major issues,” Andresen said. “If correctional officers are not paid a lot of money, you are going to have a big contraband problem in your prisons.”
TDCJ told KXAN it, “disputes the notion that a person’s salary determines their propensity to commit a felony. There are thousands of men and women in TDCJ uniform whose moral character never waivers.”
Regarding pay, TDCJ said correctional officers received a 15% pay increase in April 2022.
“Additionally, all state employees, including Correctional Officers, received a 5% pay increase effective July 1, 2023 and will receive another 5% pay increase effective September 1, 2024. This means, Correctional Officers will receive a 25% pay raise over 30 months,” TDCJ said.
According to TDCJ’s website, a correctional officer’s salary can range from $44,674 – $54,338.
“Texas does not pay the correctional officers a lot,” Andresen said. “You have people that are making a very threadbare salary in a very stressful environment.”