Prison Workers in Odessa Accused of Smuggling in Marijuana, Cell Phones for Inmates

by Jen Kastner
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND/ODESSA- 13 former prison employees of an Odessa detention center were arrested Wednesday morning in connection to indictments alleging they accepted bribes from inmates in exchange for smuggling contraband into the facility.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation spearheaded the investigation. They were assisted by the Odessa Police Department, Ector County Sheriff's Office and U.S. Marshals Service.

According to a press release from the Department of Justice, all 13 employees worked at the Ector County Correctional Center (ECCC), a federal detention facility located inside of the Ector County Courthouse in downtown Odessa.

12 of the ECCC employees reportedly worked as guards and one was employed as a food service worker. A federal grand jury indicted each of the former employees on one count of accepting a bribe. We're told the contraband smuggled into inmates included cell phones, chargers, marijuana and tobacco.

A statement was issued on behalf of ECCC by Warden Linvel Mosby which read, in part, "Early on in the investigation, the facility was notified of the potential issue and the company worked closely with investigating agencies throughout, in order to identify suspect staff members. At the first appropriate opportunity, those at issue were immediately terminated from employment with the company."

If convicted, each defendant faces up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

All 13 defendants were arraigned on Wednesday morning at the Midland Federal Courthouse.

They include:

  • Jovanna Marie Olivarez, age 21, of Odessa
  • Matthew Ryan Williams, age 20, of Odessa
  • Dennis Earl Newsome, age 63, of Austin, TX
  • Charlette Smith, age 46, of Odessa
  • Nancy Torres Morales, age 36, of Odessa
  • Valerie Ann Arenivas, age 22, of Odessa
  • Gabriel Angel Navarette, age 23, of Odessa
  • Jennifer Armida Lopez, age 25, of Odessa
  • Jessica Lucia Smith, age 33, of Monahans, TX
  • Jazmine Desiree Cruz, age 19, of Odessa
  • Jonathon Wayne Meza, age 29, of Odessa
  • Barbara Jean Garrett, age 52, of Andrews, TX
  • Ashley Dawn Clark, age 29, of Crane, TX