South Carolina prison officials and the state’s attorney general announced that they have uncovered a contraband trafficking operation taking place utilizing a number of methods and operations facilities. A law enforcement investigation into the matter turned up a variety of contraband items like illegal drugs, prescription medications, tobacco products and cellphones. Seventeen people, including inmates and their associates on the outside, have been indicted on a litany of crimes that add up to 106 charges in total.

According to reports, the trafficking operation provided contraband to inmates using conventional methods, like throwing items over prison walls, as well as unconventional methods that involved bakeries and other vendors serving South Carolina’s prison system. It is believed that the contraband was used to support gang activity within prisons, and staff members have also been implicated in the conspiracy to distribute contraband items referred to in the indictments.

In situations where smuggling activity is meant to benefit organized crime in a prison, law enforcement officials are typically tasked with proving intent. This is because someone working as a vendor may unknowingly deliver contraband that was placed inside a package or product by another individual. Such investigations can be wide-ranging and take long periods of time to piece together all of the components, leading to some individuals being wrongfully accused.

Because crimes that involve smuggling contraband into a prison can come with very serious consequences, people typically turn to the guidance and legal counsel of a defense attorney after being arrested. Involvement in drug distribution or possession of drug paraphernalia can add years to a prisoner’s current sentence, but they can also lead to decades behind bars for those on the outside who are found guilty of conspiracy. A criminal defense attorney may be able to represent an indicted individual to ensure that rights are upheld in court while protecting innocent people caught in the crosshairs of an investigation.