FBI, U.S. attorney offer details on IDOC investigation that led to 7 arrests
For the past two years, the FBI has investigated corruption within the Idaho Department of Correction, including investigating current and former correctional officers who officials say used their positions to aid drug trafficking at an Idaho prison.
Eric Barnhart, a special agent with the FBI, called the alleged actions of the officers a violation of trust.
“Four current IDOC employees and one former employee used their official positions to further their criminal conspiracy, and for that they will be held to account,” Barnhart said at a Thursday news conference in Boise. “Holding public officials to account for their wrongdoing is one of the highest priorities of the FBI, and we will pursue these matters to all lengths.”
The current correctional officers indicted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office are:
▪ Timothy Landon, 35, of Boise, who faces two counts of conspiracy to aid and abet the distribution of controlled substances, and one count of possession and transportation of contraband cigarettes.
▪ Richard McCollough, 36, of Boise, who faces one count of conspiracy to aid and abet the distribution of controlled substances, two counts of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and one count of distribution of cocaine.
▪ Eric Thompson, 38, of Star, who is charged with one count of conspiracy to aid and abet the distribution of controlled substances, two counts of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and one count of distribution of cocaine.
▪ Robert Wallin, 34, of Boise, who is charged with one count of conspiracy to aid and abet the distribution of a controlled substance and one count of possession and transportation of contraband cigarettes.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the FBI began its investigation at the department’s request after some employees reported “suspicious activity.” IDOC officials did not provide details as to what initially prompted that report.
“The indictment alleges that these four individuals agreed with each other to provide assistance and support to a drug-trafficking organization. For their services, these defendants received cash payments from undercover FBI agents,” said Bart Davis, the U.S. attorney for the District of Idaho, at a news conference Thursday.
According to court documents, an undercover FBI agent contacted a contract nurse at IDOC who had been caught bringing contraband into the facility. The agent asked the nurse to put him in contact with correctional workers “who would be willing to assist in criminal activity.
“(The nurse) directed (the FBI agent) to contact McCollough and provided his phone number,” according to indictment documents.
McCollough allegedly recruited Thompson, who then recruited Landon, who ultimately recruited Wallin, documents allege. From at least June 28, 2017, the men aided in the distribution of what they believed to be meth and cocaine, “as well as other controlled substances,” court documents allege.
“The services provided by McCollough, Thompson and Landon included acting as security at what they believed to be drug deliveries and payment dropoffs, weighing drugs, counting money, preparing drugs for delivery, (and) transporting a load of drugs for the drug-trafficking organization,” Davis said.
In addition, McCollough and Thompson allegedly delivered drugs to the organization’s customers, all while wearing their prison uniforms and providing an additional prison uniform to an undercover FBI agent.
“McCollough, Thompson and Landon used their positions as correction officers to further their conspiracy and contribute to the drug-trafficking organization,” Davis said.
Unsolicited, Thompson provided undercover FBI agents with a confidential informant’s inmate prison file – a file that Thompson and Landon allegedly made fake entries into.
If convicted, each man faces a minimum of 10 years in prison and a $10 million fine for each aiding and abetting charge, as well as for cocaine distribution. The firearm charges could add an additional five years in prison, as could the contraband charges.
IDOC director Henry Atencio said the illegal action centered around the Idaho State Correctional Institution in Kuna.
In a separate case, a former correctional officer was charged in conjunction with a former IDOC inmate and a Meridian woman, all three of whom are accused of extortion and a plan to smuggle contraband through an IDOC prison.
Joshua Barney, 43, of Boise, was a former employee of IDOC. Along with former inmate Colin McIntyre, 27, of Stanfield, Oregon, and 23-year-old Tiffany Culbertson, he faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Officials on Thursday said the trio had plans to smuggle chewing tobacco and a cellphone into an IDOC facility.
“McIntyre and Culbertson communicated. Culbertson provided money and contraband to Barney. In exchange, Barney brought contraband into IDOC and gave it to McIntyre,” Davis said.
All seven defendants were arrested Thursday morning by the FBI and are expected to appear in court on Friday afternoon, officials said.
Atencio said the actions of the indicted officers do not represent the 2,000 employees that work for the corrections department.
“The vast majority of them are dedicated, ethical public servants who walk the toughest beat in the state every day and around the clock,” Atencio said. “They are Idaho’s unsung heroes.”
The Statesman’s Christina Lords and Michael Katz contributed.