An SCI-Somerset corrections officer accused of being part of a contraband smuggling operation with inmates at the state prison waived his right to a preliminary hearing Friday before Somerset District Judge Ken Johnson.
Donald M. Lynch, 35, Fort Loudon, will face three counts of contraband/controlled substance and one count of criminal use of a communication facility, all felonies, in Somerset County court.
The defense stipulated that there was enough evidence for the commonwealth to meet its low burden of proving a prima facie case, attorney Steven Miller of Somerset told Johnson. Assistant District Attorney Hannah Myers is prosecuting the case.
Lynch, along with inmates Michael Farrell and Thomas Thompson, agreed to a smuggling operation at the state prison, special agent Michael Kondas of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections wrote in a probable-cause affidavit. Farrell and Thompson solicited other inmates.
The inmate receiving the goods, including marijuana and other drugs, pornographic magazines and Muslim oil, was told to make contact with his outside friend or family member and have them buy the contraband, Kondas wrote. Once that person had the contraband, they notified the inmates. The inmate contacted Farrell or Thompson and provided them with the name and telephone number of the outside contact. Farrell and Thompson provided this information to Lynch, who contacted the outside contact and made arrangements to pick up the contraband, according to the affidavit.
After Lynch picked up the contraband or had it sent to his home, he smuggled it into the prison and provided it to Farrell and Thompson, who then distributed it to the other inmates, Kondas wrote.
Lynch was paid with a pre-paid Visa gift card or money was placed in his PayPal account by the outside contact, according to the affidavit.
Susan Bensinger, deputy press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, said the department takes contraband smuggling very seriously.
“We are very careful with what is allowed in and what is not allowed in our institutions,” she said.
She said it is rare that a correctional officer is charged as part of a contraband smuggling operation. Lynch’s charges do not raise a red flag about the state prison, she said. “It is a well-run institution.”
There are 27 state prisons.
“When you come into our institutions — whether you are staff or visiting families or friends — you go through a metal detector,” she said.
A drug intervention team, which includes a drug dog, is randomly run through the entire prison, Bensinger said.
The investigation involving Lynch began in October after his wife called the prison security department and asked if her husband was working in that department. When she was told no, she said that she believed her husband may be bringing contraband into the prison for an inmate.
Lynch’s wife provided authorities with additional information and letters and notes that appeared to be associated with inmates, according to Kondas. She also provided Kondas with Lynch’s call records from his cellphone.
On Nov. 1 a search of Lynch, his locker and his personal vehicle revealed letters, notes and residue that tested positive for marijuana, Kondas wrote.
Johnson did not modify Lynch’s bail or conditions. Lynch is free on a $20,000 unsecured bond. He must comply with protection from abuse provisions issued in Bedford County.
“We are not precluding any option for the future,” his attorney said.