Platte City resident, Park Hill grad named in federal indictment for smuggling illegal items into prison

A federal indictment handed down this weekend alleges a Platte City resident and Park Hill High School graduate participated in an elaborate smuggling ring while working as a prison guard.

According to court documents, Anthon Aiono, 28, helped bring contraband including drugs, alcohol and tobacco into Leavenworth Detention Center CCA in Leavenworth, Kan. The charges filed in the U.S. District Court of Kansas stem from a seven-month investigation that indicates inmates and Aiono were profiting from the scheme. 

Anthon Aiono

Anthon Aiono

The indictment indicates the investigation started in September of 2015 and ended up including three informants.

According to court documents, inmates would convince family members to wire money to Karl Carter’s inmate account or to family members outside the prison also named in the indictment. In total, seven individuals were charged.

Aiono was named in four counts and faces more than 40 years in prison for conspiracy and delivery of methamphetamines, synthetic cannabis and tobacco inside a prison. Potential fines are in excess of $1 million.

A 2006 graduate of Park Hill, Aiono also played college football at Missouri Southern before becoming a fringe draft prospect following the 2010 season as a fullback. The investigation concluded with a wiretap that showed 32 communications — one call and 31 text messages — from March 23 to 28 between Aiono’s phone and the phone of Lorenzo Black, an associate of Carter outside of prison who was also indicted for his role.

On Friday, April 8, authorities followed Aiono to Black’s residence in Kansas City, Mo. According to court documents, Black entered the passenger seat of the car, which had an infant child in the backseat, before exiting and returning to his vehicle.

Both vehicles left the scene and were stopped.

A search of Black’s car revealed $2,000 in cash and a substance that later tested positive for methamphetamine. Both were taken into custody, and in an interview with authorities, Aiono indicated that the money was part of his cut for helping bring drugs and alcohol into the prison.

Investigators used recorded phone calls from inside the prison and informants to help piece together the operation.

According to court documents, half pints of vodka were sold for $40, ChapStick lids of synthetic cannabis for $50, packs of cigarettes for $150 and a gram of methamphetamine for $300. A call from Stephen Rowlette to his girlfriend Alicia Tackett — both also in the indictment — indicated that those involved were “making a mint off of (the trade)” with “big money” involved, including one inmate purported by an informant to be spending $2,000 a week of his mom’s money on contraband.

Conversations also describe some of the inmates as walking around like “zombies” thanks to the drugs.

An informant placed Carter as in charge of distribution with most handoffs taking place in 12-step program classes, in church or in the law library. The informant added that a guard who “looked to be Samoan” helped bring the items.

Identified as Aiono, the supposed mule would leave items behind a mop bucket in a cleaning supply closet another inmate had access to for job duties. That inmate would receive cans of chewing tobacco and other contraband for keeping quiet.

According to court documents, Aiono was believed to be bringing the alcohol in Sprite bottles and other items in resealed bags of potato chips or concealed in his underwear. The inmates delivering the contraband would put the items in a sock concealed in their pants before making the handoffs, according to the indictment.

The records show that about $15,000 had been deposited into Carter’s inmate account during the investigation, and that other money changed hands through the mail. Large manila envelopes with return addresses for law offices were sent to the inmates with money disguised in a separate white envelope.

This marks the second time in as many years a guard has been accused of smuggling items into Leavenworth Detention Center CCA, a private prison with more than 1,000 beds. Corrections Corporation of America is a private company that contracts with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Marshals Service to operate the facility.