Cell phone smuggling bribe lands jailer behind bars

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SHAWNEE, Okla. - An alleged bribe to a Pottawatomie County jailer lands that officer in jail.

Officials said the illegal offer came from an inmate's wife.

"We do train the officers about inmate con games and what the results of those games can be," Sid Stell said, the Executive Director of the Pottawatomie County Public Safety Center.

Stell said he was disappointed to see 22-year-old Michael Wayne George become an inmate.

He's accused of accepting $1,000 from the wife of inmate Juan Rangel-Ortiz to smuggle a cell phone into the jail.

George was arrested Friday on the charge of Receiving Compensation From Inmates For Bringing An Item Into Jail.

He allegedly refused a bribe of $500 and $700.

"Either he was refusing because he didn't want to get caught or in trouble, or he was trying to get more money out of the inmate," Stell said.

The investigation began last month when a cell phone battery was found in an envelope the inmates use to pass pencils to officers.

Stell said George had been charging cell phone batteries for the inmates.

Officials eventually listened to a jail phone conversation, during which Rangel-Ortiz allegedly mentioned George's name to his wife.

"We had word that apparently he had done this before in small amounts for tobacco and that worked for him," Stell said. "So he graduated up to cell phones for $1,000."

Stell said with a cell phone, an inmate can privately continue criminal business.

"He has free reign," he said. "He can call anyone he wants. He can set up an escape."

An attempted escape could be just one deadly consequence for officers.

"Some of these officers talk in front of inmates and say information that inmates remember and they keep that information for a purpose," he said "So it's very dangerous."

The smuggled cell phone was eventually found, flushed down a jail toilet.

Rangel-Ortiz was originally jailed on charges involving a large meth raid.

If convicted, George could face two years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

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