Hearing Rescheduled for SCI Forest Prison Guard Accused of Smuggling Contraband

| September 16, 2023

FOREST CO., Pa. (EYT) — A hearing for an SCI Forest corrections officer who was charged with multiple felonies for allegedly smuggling contraband into the prison has been rescheduled.

According to court records, a preliminary hearing for 34-year-old Cassandra L. Stevens, of Fryburg, that was scheduled for Tuesday, September 12, has been continued and will resume on November 28, at 10:00 a.m., with Magisterial District Judge Daniel L. Miller presiding.

Stevens faces the following charges:

  • Contraband/Controlled Substance, Felony 2
  • Manufacture, Delivery, or Possession With Intent to Manufacture or Deliver, Felony
  • Criminal Use Of Communication Facility, Felony 3
  • Intentional Possession of a Controlled Substance by a Person Not Registered, Misdemeanor

She remains lodged in the Warren County Jail on $25,000.00 monetary bail.

Details of the case:

According to the criminal complaint filed by the Central Department of Corrections, in early August 2023, security staff from the State Correctional Institution (SCI) at Forest contacted the State Bureau of Investigations and Intelligence (BII) requesting investigatory assistance related to an investigation involving the introduction of contraband.

In speaking with security staff, it was learned that intelligence was developed by way of reviewed recorded SCI Forest inmate telephone calls. All DOC (Department of Corrections) inmate telephone calls are placed utilizing the inmate telephone system known as Securus Technologies. [Securus connects family and friends to the incarcerated through superior communication services. It is well-known by inmates and civilians who utilize the DOC telephone system that all telephone calls are subject to recording and monitoring], states the complaint.

Upon review of inmate telephone calls, SCI Forest security staff believed that an inmate was conspiring with a civilian who was receiving parcels through the mail that contained contraband, the complaint indicates.

In addition, security staff believed that the civilian receiving the parcels was meeting with a SCI Forest staff member who was introducing the contraband into SCI Forest, the complaint notes.

Security staff identified the civilian and advised they believed the staff member conspiring with the inmate and civilian was SCI Forest Corrections Officer Cassandra Lee Stevens. All information was then provided to the BII, the complaint indicates.

On August 23, 2023, BII Agent Daniel Erdman, along with BII Supervisory Agent Douglas Hockenberry, located the civilian believed to be conspiring with the inmate and SCI Forest staff member. In speaking with the conspirator, it was revealed that the conspirator, in fact, met with a female SCI Forest staff member three times in the recent past, according to the complaint.

The conspirator advised agents that parcels would arrive at the conspirator’s residence in a UPS envelope that contained Buprenorphine, commonly referred to as Suboxone, the complaint states.

The conspirator advised agents that money would then arrive electronically to the conspirator’s mobile application, CashApp, according to the complaint.

The conspirator indicated that payment would then be made to the female staff member via CashApp or the conspirator would conduct cash withdraws to be able to provide cash to the female staff member when meeting one another, the complaint notes.

The conspirator advised agents that, when meeting with the female staff member, the conspirator would place the cash within the UPS envelope with Suboxone, giving the entire envelope to the female staff member when meeting. The conspirator told agents that the female staff member told the conspirator after the last meeting she was still owed $100.00, the complaint indicates.

The conspirator advised agents that regular communication occurred with the female staff member via text message. Next, the conspirator showed Agent Erdman a text message thread between the conspirator and the female staff member, according to the complaint.

Upon review of the text message thread, Agent Erdman learned that it began on July 14, 2023, and continued through August 22, 2023, the complaint says.

The text message thread consisted of messages about the inmate associated with the conspirator, monetary amounts to be paid to the female staff member, and identified locations where the conspirator and female staff member were to meet, the complaint notes.

A specific text message sent from the female staff member read “And I agreed to him paying me 4500 total. That’s my cut for getting that in for him. He should be making way more than that moving that stuff inside,” the complaint indicates.

In additional text messages, the female staff member tells the conspirator, “I’ll be in a white ram truck” when describing what the conspirator should look for when arriving to meet the female staff member, according to the complaint.

Additionally, a text message was discovered where the female staff member confirmed to the conspirator that “Dogs were there today. Got it done though. I was searched yesterday, not today,” the complaint states.

When reviewing the most recent text messages, the female staff member said that she met the conspirator at a “Sheetz on Shawville Highway.” The conspirator confirmed that they met at a Sheetz convenience store that was located in Clearfield, Pa., at approximately 12:15 p.m. on Monday, August 21, 2023, the complaint states.

In addition, the female staff member text messaged the conspirator when the female staff member arrived at the Sheetz convenience store advising: “Here. Parked on the side. In work truck again,” the complaint notes.

Learning of the Sheetz meeting, Agent Erdman traveled to Sheetz located on Clearfield Shawville Highway in Clearfield, the complaint states.

Upon arrival, Agent Erdman requested to review video surveillance footage from the date and time of the meeting. A Sheetz manager assisted him in locating surveillance footage which clearly showed a newer white in color Ram 1500 truck arrive at the Sheetz at approximately 12:13 p.m., parking on the side of the building. Next, a female exited the truck, walked into the Sheetz convenience store, and walked directly to the restroom. The female then exited the restroom a few minutes later, exited the Sheetz convenience store, returned to the Ram truck, and sat inside the truck, the complaint states.

Then Agent Erdman viewed the conspirator arrive and park next to the Ram truck. The female then exited the Ram truck and retrieved what appeared to be an envelope from the conspirator, the complaint continues.

After taking possession of the envelope, the female got back into the Ram truck and departed the Sheetz parking lot, the complaint notes.

The female viewed on Sheetz video surveillance footage during the meeting with the conspirator was positively identified as SCI Forest Corrections Officer Cassandra Lee Stevens. Stevens was positively identified from available photographs taken from DOC databases, PennDot records, and a still frame from the video surveillance footage that was shown to an SCI Forest security staff member, who confirmed Stevens was the female in the still frame, the complaint indicates.

It was then agreed the conspirator would arrange an additional meeting with Stevens at the direction of Agent Erdman, according to the complaint.

The conspirator sent a text message to Stevens advising that an additional parcel arrived and the conspirator had $2,500.00, plus the additional $100.00 to pay Stevens for the introduction, the complaint states.

Stevens later responded and agreed to meet with the conspirator between “930-10 a.m.” at a Walmart located on Perkins Road in Clarion. This specific Walmart is a location where the conspirator had met Stevens prior and provided her with controlled substances to be introduced into SCI Forest, according to the complaint.

On August 27, 2023, prior to 10:00 a.m., Agent Erdman met with the conspirator, providing the conspirator a UPS parcel made to appear authentic, $2,500.00 in prerecorded U.S. currency, and replica contraband to be delivered to Stevens in a controlled manner while being observed by Agent Erdman and other BIII criminal agents, the complaint notes.

On that date at approximately 10:00 a.m., Agent Erdman observed the conspirator arrive in the parking lot of the Walmart. Stevens was observed by BII agents meeting with the conspirator, taking possession of the UPS parcel that contained the prerecorded $2,500.00 in U.S. currency and the replica contraband, which consisted of small orange pieces of paper packaged in balloons, consistent with how Agent Erdman knew Suboxone is packaged to be introduced into SCI’s across the Commonwealth, the complaint indicates.

After Stevens took possession of the $2,500.00 in U.S. currency and the replica contraband, BII Agents announced their presence and took Stevens into custody, the complaint states.

According to court records, Stevens was arraigned at 8:15 p.m. on Sunday, August 27, in front of Judge Laura S. Bauer.

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Jacob Deemer is a reporter for EYT Media Group, who is based out of Venango County. He started his career as a sports writer for a local newspaper before contributing to TheHockeyWriters.com as a beat writer for the Pittsburgh Penguins. He has spent over 6 years covering sports, crime, and local news in Venango, Clarion, and Jefferson Counties.
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