Pittsburgh man sentenced to 12 years in federal prison for phone smuggling, bribery, drugs – TribLIVE

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A Pittsburgh man was sentenced Friday to 12 years in federal prison for working with an Indiana County Jail guard to smuggle cellphones into the lockup where he was being held on drug and weapons violations, according to prosecutors.
Rashon Richardson, 31, pleaded guilty to charges of possession with intent to deliver, conspiracy and bribery of a public official in two cases. He was ordered to spend three years on supervised release after the prison term.
Richardson was indicted on drug charges in 2016 and being held as a federal detainee at Indiana County Jail.
A grand jury found that Alex Lewis, formerly of Home, was working as a guard at the White Township jail when he smuggled multiple cellphones into the facility for Richardson between June and August 2019, according to the indictment.
Investigators said Richardson used an intermediary to pay Lewis through a money transfer smartphone application. Authorities did not say how many phones they think were smuggled, but wrote in court papers that bringing one phone into the jail earned Lewis $400.
Richardson used the phones to communicate with outside sources undetected, prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum.
“The defendant’s actions created a security risk inside (the jail) and undermined the safety of the community,” prosecutors said. “These offenses — the latest in a string of serious crimes perpetrated by the defendant — justify a meaningful sentence.”
Assistant federal public defender Samantha L. Stern said Richardson is committed to staying out of trouble in the future and pointed to the costs associated with communicating from a correctional facility.
“Social connectedness is a natural human need,” Stern wrote in a sentencing memorandum, adding that “telecommunication options for incarcerated people and their families exact a large financial and emotional toll on an already vulnerable population.”
Lewis was sentenced in November to two years in a federal prison followed by 18 months of supervised release, according to prosecutors.
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, rsignorini@triblive.com or via Twitter .
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