Lee inmate charged with drug trafficking from prison


An inmate at Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville was among 15 individuals, including South Carolina Department of Corrections inmates, who were charged federally on Thursday for their roles in a wide-ranging drug trafficking conspiracy operating from behind prison walls. The inmate is James Robert Peterson, 28, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.

On Sept. 14, a federal grand jury returned a 21-count sealed indictment alleging the individuals conspired to possess with intent to distribute and did distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine; used cellphones and the U.S. Mail to facilitate a drug offense and conspired to launder drug money by conducting money transfers, cash withdrawals and purchases of and deposits onto pre-paid cash cards, all in violation of federal law. The indictment also alleges unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense.

According to the indictment, five inmates capitalized on their access to cellphones to continue their criminal activities and to direct the criminal activities of nine "facilitators" outside of prison. Using contraband cellular telephones, the U.S. Mail and employing a network of suppliers, distributors and runners outside of prison, South Carolina Department of Correction inmates brokered and managed the delivery and distribution of methamphetamine from California to the upstate of South Carolina and elsewhere in the state. The cellular telephones were often equipped with touch screens and internet access that enabled prisoners to coordinate drug transactions, confirm shipment and delivery and transfer drug proceeds.

The news release stated that all charges in this indictment are merely accusations and that the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.