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This story was updated Thursday, July 25, 2019, at 6:25 p.m. with more information.

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Contraband arrests

An investigation by the Tennessee Department of Correction resulted in 14 arrests Wednesday, including people who were accused of either introduction of contraband or conspiracy to introduce contraband at the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex west of Pikeville.

Authorities charged five civilians and nine inmates in the investigation, according to a TDOC statement.

Two of the civilians, Sonia Mayes and Chamique Calhoun, are from Chattanooga.

The other civilians arrested, all Tennessee residents, were identified as Mitzi Ann Boyd Quillen of Bristol; Helena Bussey-Harris of Nashville; and Patricia Pittman of Memphis.

The inmates charged were identified as Malik Phillips; Jesse Harris; Corey Byrd; Timothy Demery; Seth Boyd; Jerry Pittman; Joshua Mooneyham; Jeremy Fleming and Stephen Ezell.

Correction officials said "intensive contraband efforts" began more than two years ago, focusing on facilities and working with local law enforcement to "cut down on the flow of drugs in Tennessee communities."

Bledsoe County Sheriff Jimmy Morris said Thursday that the county department was involved in booking the civilians arrested at the Bledsoe County Justice Center on indictments issued by the grand jury. Morris described the operation as a "roundup" and he said the five civilians all have been released on bonds, Morris said.

The five are scheduled to appear in Bledsoe County Circuit Court Friday to enter a plea and to report the status of their legal representation, the sheriff said.

"The introduction of contraband into one of our prisons by anyone is a felony offense and a threat to the safety of our team, the offenders we supervise and the public," TDOC Commissioner Tony Parker said in the statement. "We stay committed to working with local law enforcement to vigorously prosecute anyone who attempts it, be it inmate, visitor or staff."

Noting that contraband in prisons is a nationwide problem that "will never be tolerated" by the state agency, TDOC officials say the state department "has ramped up efforts by appointing a Chief Interdiction Officer, creating an Honor the Oath campaign, and partnering with law enforcement at the local, state and federal level for vigorous investigations and prosecutions."

Officials said Parker has taken part in conversations with the FCC, ASCA, the FBI, and mobile technology leaders to find ways to reduce cell phone use in contraband introduction.

Department of Correction officials urge anyone with information about contraband or potential security concerns to call the department's 24-hour anonymous tip line, 1-844-TDC-FIND.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.

 

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