Feds say inmates ran crime rings from inside Georgia prisons

Federal authorities have obtained indictments that allege two groups of inmates used cell phones inside state prisons to run a drug ring across the metro area and perpetrate fraud schemes against individuals outside the prison walls.

Of the 12 people indicted, two are former Department of Corrections employees, four are current inmates and three are inmates who were granted parole in 2014. The alleged crime rings were run out of Phillips State Prison in Gwinnett County and Valdosta State Prison.

In the case involving Valdosta State Prison, one inmate, Donald Howard Hinley, ordered a hit against an inmate he believed was cooperating with authorities, said the indictment, which was unsealed Thursday.

“Hinley ordered his associate to ‘shoot every one’ of the witness’ family members and said, ’ … pop them all off, kids, grandmamas, daddies, I don’t give a (expletive), right?” the indictment said.

But immediately after law enforcement learned of Hinley’s plan, the cooperating inmate was placed in protective custody, the indictment said.

Contraband cell phones smuggled into the state prison system are a menace, corrections officials have said. They are used to coordinate attacks inside prison and allowing inmates to continue their criminal activity outside of prison.

Inmates regularly buy and sell the phones, many of which are the latest models equipped with touch screens and Internet access. In these two cases, federal authorities say, they were used to traffic drugs, commit fraud schemes against unsuspecting victims and plan a violent assault against an inmates who was cooperating with law enforcement.

Hinley was charged along with Ruben “Flaco” Ruiz, William A. “Two Young” Matthews and Kansas “Guido” Bertollini, all of whom were recently paroled from state custody. With their assistance, Hinley routined brokered significant illegal drug deals in the Atlanta area and in other areas of Georgia, the indictment said.

Also charged was Anekra Artina Williams, a former guard who allegedly smuggled contraband into Valdosta State Prison in exchange for bribe payments. On one occasion, she smuggled methamphetamine and prescription pain medicine into prison for Hinley in exchange for $500, the indictment said.

The second indictment accuses three current inmates, Mims Morris, Johnathan “Turtle” Silvers and Adam “Scrap” Smith in a prison smuggling and fraud scheme. They were allegedly assisted by another defendant, Charonda Edwards, who worked in the kitchen at Phillips State Prison and smuggled in phones, drugs and tobacco for inmates.