Prison guard from Miramar arrested on cocaine smuggling charge

A prison guard from Miramar was locked up Wednesday after sheriff’s deputies arrested him for allegedly planning to smuggle a large amount of cocaine and marijuana into the Everglades Correctional Institute.

Shamel Watson, 30, was charged with drug trafficking, conspiracy to introduce drugs into a correctional facility and bribery, according to the Florida Department of Corrections.

Authorities began monitoring Watson in May after a tip from a confidential informant. Officers learned more about Watson’s alleged crime after eavesdropping on an inmate’s telephone call in which he allegedly laid out the conspiracy.

Watson had planned to pick up the four ounces of cocaine and one pound of marijuana in Collier County, police said. The Collier County Sheriff’s Department set up a sting that ultimately nabbed Watson on Wednesday. Watson also planned to smuggle two cellphones — also a crime — into the West Miami-Dade lockup, authorities said.

An arrest report from the Collier County Sheriff’s Office was not immediately available.

Department of Corrections Secretary Walt McNeil fired Watson after the arrest.

“I am appalled with the behavior of this officer and want to send a strong message that we will not tolerate criminal behavior inside our prisons by inmates or staff,” McNeil said in a news release Thursday.

Corrections spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said the overwhelming number of prison guards perform their jobs honorably. She said most contraband is introduced into prisons by visitors.

The Watson arrest was the latest embarrassment for the nation’s third-largest prison system. In May, McNeil fired three prison guards, saw the resignation of two others and disciplined 16 more for their roles in stun-gunning children who were visiting three state prisons during Take Your Sons and Daughters to Work Day events.

One predecessor of McNeil’s, James Crosby, is in federal prison for his role in a 2005 bribery case. During and shortly after Crosby’s tenure, numerous guards and supervisors were fired and arrested for their roles in a steroid ring, rampant theft, misused inmate labor, a no-show job for a prison-league softball player and drunken brawls.

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