Drug smuggling operation busted at Polk County jail

Polk County

Nine people have been arrested for being involved with smuggling drugs into the Polk County Jail.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd announced the arrests Tuesday. He says the nine people were involved in the smuggling of drugs into the county jail.

Back in May, detectives started investigating the possible smuggling of K-2 synthetic cannabinoids into the PCSO South County Jail near Frostproof.

During the investigation, detectives discovered that inmates housed together in a dorm, along with friends and family outside of the jail, were involved in the active conspiracy to smuggle K-2 into the jail. The investigation uncovered a total of $4,500 in transactions and purchases of K-2 that either entered the jail or were attempted to be sent in.

THE METHOD

According to detectives, the method used to smuggle K-2 into the jail was to spray liquid K-2 or synthetic cannabinoids onto paper. The suspects would then dry and iron the paper and disguise it by writing legal information, personal messages and bible verses on the paper.

The K-2 infused papers were then mailed into the jail using fictitious law firm stationery. In some cases, the papers were brought in during meetings with an attorney at the jail.

Defense Attorney Sara Jones is one of the attorneys unknowingly caught up in the scam.

“These particular items were supposed to be shown to the defendants and given back. I was told by the sheriffs office that they were not given back,” Jones said of the drug-laced paperwork.

Jones was the only attorney named and shown by the Sheriff during the news conference. 

“I look like I was arrested and I was a defendant,” she told WFLA. “I feel victimized, I feel further victimized by the press conference today.”

Jones worries the move will hurt her law firm business and prevent other attorney’s who may have been victimized from coming forward.

THE ARRESTEES

Detectives say 29-year-old Holly Boulanger of Lake Alfred was the outside source for the synthetic cannabis. Polk Sheriff Grady Judd says she was in a relationship with 28-year-old Randall Kirby who, at the time of the investigation, was out of jail on bond for trafficking in K-2 synthetic cannabinoids, stemming from an investigation in January. Both worked together to provide and sell the K-2 infused papers to friends and family members of inmates in the jail.

In August detectives arranged an undercover purchase of five sheets of paper sprayed with liquid K-2 for $375.00 from Boulanger. The sheets tested positive for K-2 synthetic cannabinoids.

Earlier this month, detectives arranged the purchase of eight sheets of K-2-laced paper from Boulanger for $600.

Last Wednesday, detectives tracking Boulanger saw her leave her home. They pulled her over and found a total of 78.7 grams of paper in her vehicle laced with K-2. During an interview, Boulanger admitted to spraying papers with liquid K-2.

Detectives served a search warrant at Boulanger’s residence and found another 52.2 grams of paper sprayed with K-2. They also found two plastic containers with a brown colored liquid believed to be liquid K-2 or synthetic cannabinoids.

A two-year-old boy living at the home where the chemicals were found was turned over to caseworkers with the Florida Department of Children and Families. They assumed the custody and care of the child. 

During the investigation, detectives discovered that an attorney of Lake Wales was responsible for passing some of the K-2 laced papers into the jail. The attorney told detectives she had provided her client, 27-year-old Johnny Coleman, with documents during an attorney-client visitation at the South County Jail that were given to her by 34-year-old Joanna Juliano. The attorney told deputies she believed she had recovered all of the documents from Johnny Coleman before she left visitation. She said she had no knowledge that the documents were laced.

All of the people arrested during the investigation were either involved in purchasing, arranging the delivery of, or introducing or attempting to introduce contraband into the jail, deputies say. 

Authorities say inmate Zachary Bitner contacted his mother, Brenda Bitner, to get three envelopes with the return address of the Mathews Law Firm/PA addressed to him at the jail. Brenda Bitner is accused of sending the envelopes to a third person and they were then used in an attempt to smuggle K-2 into the jail.

According to the sheriff’s office, inmate Johnny Junior Coleman communicated with his girlfriend, Joanna Juliano, to receive fake legal documents from Brenda Bitner that would then be used to mail K-2 into the jail.

“Coleman gave Havaii Smith’s phone number to Juliano so they could meet and Smith could provide K-2 soaked papers to Juliano, and then Juliano could put them in the fake legal envelope and mail them to the jail,” a sheriff’s office spokesman said in a news release. “Smith and Juliano met at the Sam’s Club parking lot in north Lakeland in August and Smith gave Juliano 7 K-2 soaked papers. These papers later tested positive for K-2.”

Detectives say inmate Jamie Garst contacted his mother, Cheryl Cole and arranged for money to be sent to her. In March, Cole sent a letter to her son using an envelope with a return address of the Banter Law Firm in an attempt to make it look like legal mail. The mail was intercepted and was found to contain 8 discolored pages that had a foul odor. The paper tested positive for Fluoro-alpha-pyrrolidinohexanophenone, a kind of synthetic amphetamine.

Cole admitted to deputies that she sent the mail and claimed she wanted to ask her son personal information about his case without anyone reading. But deputies say there were only affidavits copied onto the paper and no questions or personal information in the envelope.

Garst’s girlfriend is Havaii Smith, the woman who gave K-2 soaked papers to Juliano. Garst told Smith he wanted her to write “case laws,” “statutes” and “bible verses” on the papers to make it appear the mail was legitimate.

MAKING CHANGES

In light of the investigation, Sheriff Grady Judd is making changes at the jail.

Judd said if defense attorney’s take paperwork into the jail, it will be opened and scanned, and the copy will be given to the inmate.

The sheriff said the paperwork would not be read and would remain confidential, although he did not say what measures would be taken to ensure this.

Defense Attorneys 8 On Your Side spoke to said this is concerning.

“I certainly understand the sheriff’s obligation to maintain the safety and security of the county jail, the inmates housed at the jail, and his employees,” said Cory Chastang, the president of the Polk County Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Association. “What gives me pause is that the sheriff’s comments lack any specifics as to how the sheriff and his employees intend to avoid violating attorney-client privilege by reading and reviewing our communications with our clients. This gives the local defense bar cause for grave concern because unfortunately, we will not know our letters and their substance have been reviewed until after it has happened.”

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