Alleged jailhouse smuggling ring busted in New Jersey

July 29, 2010 3:48:26 PM PDT
Two Corrections Officers from New Jersey along with nine others are accused to running a jailhouse smuggling ring.

Investigators say the ring was linked to a concierge service providing prisoners with cell phones, drugs and other contraband at will to inmates in the Essex County Correctional Facility.

Prosecutors say even a special education teacher was part of an intricate scheme.

"To bring heroin, prescription drugs, marijuana and cell phones into the Essex County jail," said Robert Laurino, Acting Essex County Prosecutor.

In total, 13 people are now charged and the alleged ringleader is 30-year-old Joseph Mastriani of Nutley. He has been a corrections officer for the past 9 years.

Investigators say he would use go-betweens to literally fill orders as the inmates at the jail would place them. They are also charged with smuggling contraband. William Rupp, a corrections officer for 7 years, and 5 year Probation Officer John Smith were also charged.

"Today I took these badges from those men, who ignored their sacred oath and tarnished these very badges," adds Laurino.

Prosecutors say inmate, Wilbert Best reaped the benefits in some of the smuggled goods.

He's awaiting trial for murder, and authorities say there is a huge problem of smuggling in New Jersey, especially after inmate Anthony Kidd allegedly used a smuggled cell phone to order his girlfriend murdered back in 2005.

"We take it seriously and we believe that the techniques are getting more and more sophisticated every day," said David Velasquez of the FBI.

Among the others charged, Mastriani's girlfriend, Jill Watral, a special-ed teacher at Washington Academy in Cedar Grove, and the girlfriend of inmate Ricardo Ortiz, Madeline Rodriguez. Authorities say she's a reputed gang member.

Authorities are now looking to see if policies in the jail should change.