Suspects accused of smuggling drugs into jail sentenced

A lengthy investigation into a criminal syndicate has resulted in seven suspects being charged and sentenced.
Published: Jan. 10, 2023 at 9:55 PM EST
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - A lengthy investigation into a criminal syndicate that allegedly worked to smuggle drugs into the Greenup County Detention Center has resulted in seven suspects being charged and sentenced.

Those charged include Gregory Parsons, George Waggoner, Joshua Joyce, Michael Howard, Whitney Ratcliff, Brittany Osborne, and Courtney Parsons.

Each is charged with engaging in organized crime, conspiracy to trafficking, and promoting contraband. Gregory Parsons and George Waggoner have been sentenced to 15 years. The others have been sentenced to 10 years.

Investigators say it started in the summer of 2016 after several alleged drug traffickers were taken into custody in Carter County and later lodged at the jail in Greenup.

First Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Joseph Merkel says those inmates would speak on the phone with people on the outside using code words and coordinate with them on where to leave heroin.

They also allegedly recruited other inmates, who’d get out temporarily to do work in the community, to pick the drugs up and smuggle them into the jail, where they’d be used essentially as a form of currency.

Merkel says this went on several months before a tip led to an investigation that took close to two years, partly because investigators had to listen to around 4,400 recorded inmate phone calls.

“A lot of credit goes to the jail for uncovering this and investigating it thoroughly,” Merkel said. “The deputies don’t get a lot of experience investigating criminal syndicate cases, so it was really impressive work.”

Last Thursday, the seventh and final suspect in the case was sentenced.

“People are supposed to be safe inside the jail,” Merkel said. “They’re not supposed to be able to access controlled substances or illegal drugs.”

Merkel says since this syndicate was exposed, the jail has installed a body scanner that shows if someone is trying to smuggle drugs inside.