An inmate at a Florida jail was allowed to eat Chinese takeout and sit in a guard station after hours in return for helping guards with financial and legal matters, according to an internal investigation released late last month.
The Orange County Corrections Department found that Robert Potchen, 61, gave guards advice on their taxes, student loans and mortgages in exchange for special privileges like accessing the internet.
Potchen had been serving a 15-year prison sentence for pulling a gun on his wife, but he was in the jail as he awaited a hearing on a probation violation.
“Potchen stated that he was able to find something in common with each officer to discuss and used the county’s poor working conditions and inadequate pay to his advantage,” investigators wrote in the report obtained by the Orlando Sentinel.
In return for such discussions, inmates and other officers testified that the 61-year-old was able to sit in a guard station after hours, eat Chinese take-out, and even use an electronic cigarette.
The probe began after two inmates sent letters claiming Potchen was receiving special treatment, according to the Sentinel. One of the inmates claimed that the 61-year-old had a romantic relationship with a female guard.
“To my understanding, all rules and regulations pertain to all inmates in the Orange County Jail,” one of the inmates wrote in the report obtained by the paper. “I believe we should all be treated equally and no one should be given special privileges.”
Investigators discovered that Potchen had made 594 calls to one number over the course of six months, who investigators determined was correctional officer Lisa Rembert. In the calls reviewed by investigators, Rembert talked about how she was given power of attorney over Potchen, and she would use those powers to have police evict the people living at Potchen's home, WESH-TV reported.
One of the inmates told investigators he believed Rembert spent $20,000 renovating his home while he was serving his sentence.
"Potchen informed Officer Rembert that his business partner was supposed to deposit $300,000 into her account," according to the report obtained by WESH-TV.
Potchen then allegedly told the officer she should buy a new truck with her new money.
In an interview with investigators, the 61-year-old admitted writing a letter regarding one officer's mortgage and another dictating another letter for an office for a student-loan debt.
Each of the five officers who were implicated in the scheme: Lisa Rembert, Shawn Kelly, Bobby McDonald, Joseph Rice and Juan Perez, have resigned or retired from their posts.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.