ST. LOUIS – An FBI agent says an Illinois defense attorney facing federal charges that he tried to smuggle a heroin-filled condom into an Indiana federal prison claims to have done it repeatedly, exploiting greater privacy privileges lawyers are afforded in the lockups.
Federal authorities in Terre Haute, Ind., charged Robert Drew on Tuesday with attempting to provide a prohibited object three days earlier to an inmate at the federal prison there. He remained jailed Thursday in Vigo County, Ind., on $100,000 bond.
Drew, 68, of Marion, Ill., had been under suspicion and was being surveilled by federal agents who, acting on a tip, directed police to stop the attorney's car as he pulled onto the Indiana prison's grounds for a scheduled visit with an unidentified inmate.
Searchers of Drew's black Mercedes found marijuana Drew claimed was for his own use, as well as a heroin-filled, duct-taped condom the attorney pulled out from inside the front of his pants, FBI agent Jacob Overton wrote in an affidavit filed with the criminal complaint.
Drew claimed he was unaware of what the condom contained, though he acknowledged they he knew it was contraband outlawed in the prison, Overton wrote. Tests later proved the dark tar-like substance to be heroin, Overton wrote.
Drew, who was also found to be carrying roughly $12,000 in cash mostly in $100 bills, told the FBI he was sent the drug-containing package the previous day at his office and was to deliver it to an inmate client during their scheduled visit, Overton wrote.
According to Overton, Drew said he had delivered such packages to the inmate three to four times during the past year in private conference rooms inside the lockup — a concession lawyers are afforded in a prison system where regular family visits take place more in the open.
During visits by attorneys, Overton wrote, a prison officer can monitor from outside through a large window, and such get-togethers are out of view of surveillance cameras.
When handed the outlawed package, Overton wrote, the inmate would lean forward in his chair and insert it into his rectum to avoid it being detected during a customary search after the meeting.
Overton said prison phone records show the inmate and Drew talked several times in the weeks preceding Drew's arrest, with each conversation privileged, unrecorded and, according to Overton, meant to discuss drugs and how to get them to the prisoner. Drew also made 14 wire transfers totaling $2,400 to four other inmates since early June.
Online court records do not indicate whether Drew has an attorney. Calls by The Associated Press to his home this week were not returned.
Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Traci Billingsley and the federal prosecutor assigned to the case would not talk specifically about Drew's case.
Billingsley said Thursday that known cases involving attorneys sneaking drugs or other contraband to the imprisoned clients were rare. All visitors of federal prisons are required to be scanned by a metal detector when entering, Billingsley said, though manual patdowns are not uniformly done.
Lawyers given access to the site also get greater privacy by being allowed to confidentially talk with inmates in a room, often with a guard standing outside and observing through a window. Those conversations are not tape recorded or listened in on by prison staff, Billingsley said.